JoCasta Zamarripa

JoCasta Zamarripa

State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, is hoping that labeling them as “Not valid for voting” will evaporate opposition to the drivers cards she proposes be issued to undocumented immigrants now unable to obtain or renew drivers licenses under state law.

“I believe this will quash the top argument that Republican opponents to this card have used,” Zamarripa said. She was circulating a bill to provide the cards, revised from a version that failed to advance last year, in search of bi-partisan support.

Applicants for the proposed new drivers card would need to provide proof of identity and pass drivers knowledge and skills tests just as for a standard license, but would not need to provide proof that they are in the United States legally.

The cards would be marked “Not valid for voting” on their face in response to concerns that they would be used to enable noncitizens to vote, Zamarripa said.

Wisconsin adopted federal drivers license provisions, including that applicants prove they are legally present in the country and provide a social security number or verification they are not eligible for one, which went into effect in 2013, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Critics of the federal rules for years have argued that it would not stop undocumented immigrants from driving, only from being tested, licensed and insured.

That’s why Zamarripa said her bill is about public safety and economic development.

“This is not an immigration bill. We need to know who is driving on the roads and that they know the rules of the road and are driving with insurance,” she said.

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Zamarripa says that constituents bring these economic concerns to her frequently.

“I hear almost daily from businesses — dairy farmers to the insurance industry — who feel we need this pragmatic bill to ensure workers get to work and their kids get to school safely,” she said.

Yet she acknowledged that she hears, too, from undocumented immigrants who now fear getting behind the wheel, but insist they must.

“They try their best not to get on the road, but sometimes they absolutely have to,” Zamarripa said. “One woman told me about how hard her heart beats when she gets in the car, because she knows her drivers license is expired and she fears being stopped by police and in a worst case scenario, ending up in deportation.”

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