The Bulletin Board

House poised to deny driver’s licenses for asylum seekers, undocumented residents in state

By: - March 30, 2022 3:57 pm
A driver's license application form

Immigrants’ rights advocates say increased access to driver’s licenses would boost public safety and the well-being of immigrant families. (New Hampshire DMV driver’s license application form)

The House is set to vote on three bills Thursday that home in on who gets to have a driver’s license in New Hampshire. The answer the Republican majority is pushing for would exclude people who are seeking asylum or are undocumented.

They say granting a driver’s license in these instances would open the door to voter fraud, although certain noncitizens can already get a driver’s license in New Hampshire if they are here legally for work, business, or school. And those who register to vote are required to prove their citizenship, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Immigrants’ rights advocates have spoken against what they call the misplaced fear of voter fraud, pointing instead to the benefits of allowing increased access to driver’s licenses, which they say would boost public safety and the well-being of immigrant families. 

That’s what House Bill 1666 would do, in their view, by allowing people without a Social Security number, including people who are undocumented, to get a driver’s license. An estimated 14,660 undocumented people live in New Hampshire. The bill would prevent the Department of Transportation from sharing information with federal immigration enforcement agencies conducting civil investigations, another reason House Republicans on the committee recommended killing the bill, 10-9.

House Bill 1093 aims to add asylum seekers to those who could apply for a license while waiting for their paperwork to process, given how long it can take to process an asylum application. It comes to the House floor with a 10-9 party-line recommendation from committee that the chamber kill the bill.

House Bill 1463 – which would extend Real ID to people who aren’t citizens but are in the country legally – received the same recommendation out of committee and for a similar reason. 

In the majority report, Rep. Ted Gorski, a Bedford Republican, called it bad public policy to grant driver’s licenses and ID cards to asylum seekers and people who are undocumented. He claimed – with the backing of committee Republicans – that this would facilitate further illegal conduct, arguing that the doors opened by possessing a driver’s license should remain closed to these people.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.