Milwaukee County board approves resolution supporting driver’s licenses for all

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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, March 21 adopted (14-2) a proposal from Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez to endorse portions of Governor Tony Evers’ budget that would restore full access to driver’s licenses for all Wisconsin residents, regardless of immigration status.

Supervisor Ortiz-Velez stressed the safety benefits of expanding access to driver’s licenses.

“Expanding access to driver’s licenses will make the roads safer for everyone. When California, New Mexico, and Utah allowed undocumented immigrants to have access to driver’s licenses it increased the number of insured vehicles on the roads, helped to reduce the number of accidents, and assisted law enforcement’s ability to respond to accidents because individuals who were involved stayed on the scene. I want to thank my constituents and member of the community who spoke out on this issue, especially Christine Neuman-Ortiz and the members of Voces de la Frontera,” said Ortiz-Velez in a news release.

According to the release, the adopted resolution states that removing restrictions to driver’s license access would:

  • Facilitate undocumented immigrants ability to reach more distant employers.
  • Improve overall driver safety by allowing undocumented immigrants to undergo the requisite tests to obtain a license.
  • Lower insurance premiums statewide by approximately $16 million via enlarging the pool of insured persons by approximately 28,000.
  • Raise an additional $2 million toward state transportation objectives from the annual vehicle registration fee.

The adopted resolution would be forwarded to the offices of Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.

Officials with Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant advocacy organization, issued this statement:

Thursday morning, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring support for restoring access to driver licenses at the state level for all Wisconsin residents regardless of immigration status. The Racine Common Council passed a similar resolution in January. The Milwaukee County resolution was introduced by County Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, and it passed by a 14-2 margin. Click here for video of the vote.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has included measures to restore driver licenses for immigrant Wisconsinites in his 2019-2021 state budget proposal. Leaders from both parties have spoken out in support of restoring driver licenses for immigrants, and hundreds of people participated in a lobby day at the Capitol last Thursday in support of the proposal. Wisconsinites could obtain driver licenses regardless of immigration status until 2007, when a law passed by the legislature the previous year requiring driver license applicants to have a Social Security Number went into effect.

“I came to this country hungry, as a single parent to six children, the youngest of whom was just three years old when we arrived,” said Guadalupe Romero, a member of Voces de la Frontera, while testifying during a County Board Judiciary Committee hearing on the resolution on March 7th. “That’s why we’re seeking support for our efforts to regain driver licenses. I want to contribute to this country. I want to continue being a hard-working person.”

“I’m very pleased that this item has passed and want to thank all the people who came to testify in support of this measure,” said County Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, author of the resolution. “The County of Milwaukee stands firm in its support of our vibrant immigrant community.”

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