Florida’s driver’s license ban brings fear to undocumented immigrants across the country

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. — Florida’s law that bans undocumented immigrants from using drivers licenses issued from other states went into effect July 1. The law is one of the harshest in the country, and there’s widespread fear other states could follow suit.

For immigrant advocacy organizations fighting for expanded access to drivers licenses, the Florida law has created uncertainty. In Wisconsin, undocumented immigrants aren’t allowed to get a drivers license. Already, some have run into legal issues. Raymundo Martinez, an undocumented migrant, is facing deportation after driving without a license in 2018. 

High School students alongside Voces de la Frontera organization marched from Milwaukee to the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to protest access to driver’s licenses undocumented immigrants in Madison, Wisc., on May 2, 2022.

The state has about 70,000 undocumented immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

“I don’t want to be separated from my family and from my grandchildren that live here,” Martinez said.

Voces de la Frontera is an immigrant rights organization in Milwaukee leading the fight for driver’s licenses for all. Their movement began because Wisconsin’s legislature backtracked on immigrants’ need for driver’s licenses. 

The state of Wisconsin passed a state law in March 2006 entitled Act 126, where undocumented immigrants and people who don’t have a social security number can no longer renew or obtain a driver’s license or state identification.

“People should be able to take their family members without fear, to doctors, to school, without being afraid that they’re going to get pulled over and targeted,” said Wisconsin State Representative Sylvia Ortiz-Velez. 

Only 19 states have permitted undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Glendalys Valdes attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and graduated with a major in Journalism and Public Relations and a double minor in Economics and International studies. Glendalys gravitates toward writing about immigration policies, reform and politics and hopes to put a spotlight on underrepresented communities. Reach her at glendalysvaldes123 [at] gmail [dot] com.

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