Licenses For All Undocumented Immigrants

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Many undocumented immigrants have been active members of our community for decades and have jobs and families. Immigrant’s rights group, Raices En Tampa’s founder, Marisol Marquez described how important it is for undocumented immigrants to have state sponsored driver’s licenses.

“About one-million undocumented immigrants in the state of Florida alone. They work in the fields. They come from different areas. They are migrant farm workers. They are already driving. All that separates them from us, is that they don’t have a drivers license to drive.”

Community organizer, Danielle Leppo pointed out that all residents, documented or not have personal lives, responsibilities and commitments like everyone else.

“I don’t know a lot, but I know what’s right. And I know that people who work, people who go to school, people who have families, people who need to go to church- who need to go about their daily business, need licenses so that they can have normal productive lives. So they can be normal, productive citizens of our society.”

It is also an issue of public safety on our roadways. Chris Cano, Florida Deputy State Director for Young Adults with the League of United Latin American Citizens said it is not possible to obtain auto insurance without a driver’s license. Because of that, there are more uninsured drivers on the road.

“Last session Governor Scott vetoed a driver’s license for documented recipients, and really that only affects a small population of the immigrant population in Florida. What Raices En Tampa is advocating for is driver’s licenses for all undocumented immigrants, and to me it’s a public safety issue that’s the most important.”

As the group marched to the front door of City Hall, Marisol Marquez listed some of their demands,

“So, we are here to say that the City of Tampa, Mayor Buckhorn, our local Florida politicians, they need to help pave the pathway, to have a driver’s license. They need to support the resolution that Raices en Tampa has already written for them to say yes, we will support driver’s licenses for the undocumented in the State of Florida. And that is why we are here, even though it’s raining-to demand that. Thank-you all.”

After they post their proposal on the front door of Tampa’s City Hall, Marquez points inside the government building and asks the crowd,

“Tampa City Council, they’re right over there, maybe? Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no- they are at a fancy banquet dinner.”

A member of the student/farm worker alliance, and The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Joe Parker said that the fight for fair wages and working conditions in the fields has been going on for nearly two decades and that one of their most successful community building initiatives is printing membership cards. It’s an alternative to an official driver’s license.

“This is a way for people to be able to go to the doctor, and have a photo I.D. with them. To be able, to be a buffer from police harassment in the community. You know, it’s the same as it is in any other place. The police like to get after people for no good reason. Also, when people move further north, to carry that identification with them, to be able to navigate better the different jobs that they are working as the crops move north.”

“We unequivocally support this so that mothers and fathers, so that working men and women, so that students can just get through their day, and do what they need to do without this irrational fear of being targeted for who they are, what they look like or where they come from, but to be able to have an identification, and to be able to have that access that everyone whose a member of this community and throughout Tampa and the State of Florida”