For most people, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage. It signals freedom and independence — for teens to working people to seniors. It is one of the first questions on a standard job application: Do you have a reliable means of transportation? This is especially necessary in a sprawling state like Florida, where a lack of strong public transportation virtually mandates having a driver’s license and personal vehicle.
Yet presently, Florida’s restrictive driver’s license law is putting communities at risk — and hampering critical revenue gains — by forcing the 685,000 undocumented immigrants who are of driving age to navigate the state’s increasingly-congested roads without licenses. Until a more straightforward and affordable path to citizenship is implemented federally, Florida can act right now to further policies for immigrants who are already here, working, studying and otherwise contributing to our communities. One such policy that 14 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have advanced is allowing driver’s licenses for all, including immigrants who are undocumented.
At a time when Florida is anticipating a large revenue shortfall, inclusive policies that also generate state funds are more crucial than ever. Expanding driver’s license eligibility to include all Floridians — regardless of immigration status — would not only make immigrants’ everyday lives easier and improve public safety, but it would result in an estimated $68.6 million in state revenue within the first three years of implementation. This revenue projection is conservative, as the number of immigrants who are undocumented is largely underestimated and this report does not account for all revenue associated with new licenses and vehicle purchases, such as local sales surtaxes on vehicle purchases, fuel taxes and recurring fees.