March, 7, 2013, Louisville, KY- Late last month at least a 150 immigrants gathered at the in Kentucky’s capitol to through their support behind H.B. 396 and nationwide immigration reform, which could dramatically change the lives of undocumented immigrants in the state.

If H.B. 396 passes it would allow undocumented immigrants living the state the opportunity to obtain a license if they are able to pass a driving test. The license would clearly state that it cannot be used for identification purposes. All other driver’s license rules such as DUI suspension and the points system for traffic violations would also apply.

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Currently, only immigrants that have legally obtained visas, permanent residency or citizenship are allowed to get a driver’s license, which is left up to the discretion of each state. There are only a small number of states that extend this privilege to undocumented immigrants. Those states include Washington, Utah, and New Mexico. However numerous states which include Illinois, Colorado, New York and California have introduced similar legislation.

Allowing undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses is a controversial subject. Many believe that giving them the same privileges as legal residents encourage future illegal immigration, but it could actually make the streets safer for the public.

There are numerous reasons why it is in the interest of the public to allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive.

Before an undocumented immigrant is issued a driver’s license, they will have to pass a driving test. That means they will have to learn traffic rules and how to be a safe driver.  A driving test ensures that before a person gets behind the wheel they have the skills and experience to drive safely, while not all accidents can be avoided, many can prevented if the driver is properly trained. Allowing undocumented immigrants to drive makes the road safer for everyone.

Traffic accidents cost the American people billions each year in the form of auto insurance, and states mandate that anyone wanting to purchase auto insurance must have a license. Many illegal immigrants flee the scene of accidents because they have no insurance, and the related costs caused by uninsured motorists are passed on the consumer. In Utah, authorities found that 72 percent of undocumented immigrants, who are allowed licenses, are insured.

Contrary to much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric, many undocumented immigrants enter the country legally, but because of the visa system, some people stay after it has expired. While this is illegal, it can be very difficult to leave the life you’ve built behind and wait for a number of years to get another visa.

When a visa is about to expire or an immigrant is facing deportation, they should get assistance from an expert, who is familiar with the complexity of the laws. It is possible to stop deportation or extend a visa but it takes the knowledge of the immigration courts and the dedication. Louisville immigration attorney Rust O’Brien has been serving people in Kentucky with their immigration-related needs for fourteen years.

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