Arlington County proposes to allow illegal immigrants to get driver's license

Should undocumented immigrants have a driver's license? That is the question the Arlington County Board plans to vote on.

Libby Garvey, the chair of the Arlington County Board, said giving licenses to undocumented immigrants would make the streets safer and benefit the economy in various ways. She expects the board will vote in support of the resolution.

"More and more states are doing it," said Garvey. "There are a couple of reasons - one - there is economic benefit. Having a car enables folks to connect to their jobs and be more stable members of our community. These are folks who are here now. And there is a whole public safety aspect to it because if you get a license, then you have to make sure you know how to drive the car, which is a good thing to operate a vehicle. In addition, people have to have insurance."

Garvey also said it will also make it easier for immigrants to get to and from work.

However, it is actually against the law for undocumented immigrants to work in the United States.

"If we don't do that, then we are just sort of pretending that they are not really here and they are not working," said Garvey. "That is a federal issue they need to deal with. We need to deal with the effects here in our community and we believe everybody will be better off if these folks have licenses."

Licenses are issued by the state and not by the county, so if this is approved, local lawmakers would send the resolution to the state legislature, which in Virginia is a conservative one.

"There are conservative states like Utah and Nevada that have done this," she said. "This is not that extraordinary and I think if you actually look as I have said that there are different consequences to what you do and I think everybody is better off."

But those who live and work in Arlington County are split on the proposal.

"For an undocumented immigrant, I think you should be here legally to get a license," said one woman.

"I have been hit by an illegal immigrant that didn't have a driver's license and that didn't have insurance, so I don't think it's a good thing," said another resident. "But I think given the reality, I think it makes sense for us to give them driver's licenses so we know who they are and where they live."

"I think they should be able to get driver's licenses," said another man. "Because I think most undocumented people are here to work and it would help them work. Actually, we benefit as a nation from their working."

The Arlington County Board will vote on the issue at their regular meeting on Tuesday.