Lautaro Grinspan of the Miami Herald writes:
"Maria Bilbao is a former domestic worker turned immigration activist from Argentina. Back when she was undocumented, she found herself driving without a license for nine years. In Florida, that’s a second-degree misdemeanor.
During that stretch of time, Bilbao’s car was hit twice. Both times, she let the driver who had hit her off the hook, to avoid involving the authorities.
'There was a lot of fear that driving would lead to detention, and that the life you worked so hard to build for yourself here would be gone just like that,' Bilbao said. 'But at the same time, relying on public transportation was impossible.'
From personal experience, people like Bilbao understand how being able to get driver’s licenses could help Florida’s undocumented immigrant population, which numbers around 750,000. Now, a new report from the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute (FPI) lays out that, were the state to expand license eligibility, everyone else might benefit too.
According to the report made public on Tuesday, granting driver’s licenses to all Floridians would result in a significant boost to state revenue — to the tune of an estimated $68.6 million within the first three years of implementation — as well as improve public safety by curtailing accidents and hit-and-runs.
'Opening up access to driver’s licenses for all Floridians and tapping into this new stream of revenue makes sense for our state, particularly in the face of the Sunshine State’s impending revenue shortfall,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI [emphasis added]. “This inclusive policy would also make our roads safer and provide immigrants who are undocumented the chance to better support their families and continue contributing to the state and local economy.'
...'We know from research and from other states that have implemented this that, generally, if you have a personal vehicle you don’t have to rely as much on public transportation and maybe you can commute a little further for a better job that pays you more,' said Alexis Davis, FPI policy analyst and report author. 'And if you earn more you spend more. And it’s all going to feed back into the economy.'"