After a year of statewide deliberation, safer roads for everyone and economic development for Delaware will soon prevail with the passing of Senate Bill 59, the Driving Privilege Card.
The sponsor of the bill was Sen. Bryan Townsend. The additional bipartisan sponsors were Sen. Robert I. Marshall and Reps. Helene Keeley, and Joe Miro. Co-sponsors were Reps. Michael A. Barbieri, Paul S. Baumbach, John A. Kowalko, Stephanie T. Bolden, Sean M. Lynn and Sens. David B. McBride and F. Gary Simpson.
A 50-agency coalition called Coalition United for Safer Roads for All Delawareans led the yearlong campaign.
At the request of the Delaware Hispanic Commission, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell approved the request to form the
Undocumented Motorist Safety and Insurance Task Force consisting of 25 members: Law Enforcement, Homeland Security, Division of Motor Vehicles, Latino organizations, Insurance Corporations and others to study how to provide an alternative driving card for the estimated 35,000 undocumented adults in Delaware.
Mothers with infants in their arms and youngsters at their legs came to testify passionately for the bill. Their plea was real and they moved legislators hearts.
The evening of June 30, in Legislative Hall, the legislature voted final approval of Senate Bill 59 on Driving Privilege Cards. As courtesy to more than 100 Latino families who came to witness the event, Gov. Markell announced that he would sign the bill that night. After a half hour of preparation, he invited his Cabinet, and legislative leaders of the bill and Latinos to join him for the signing ceremony.
As the ink was drying on the bill, one of the Latino parents said that her child would like to sing the national anthem for the governor. With the other children crowded in front of the governor, Markell pointed to the flag as the singing began. It was a touching moment and a fine example to those present, especially the children, that Delaware’s government is accessible and listens to the voice of the people.
The bill becomes operational in six months at which time it will permit the undocumented residents to enter the standard driving license process; testing, written examination, eye examination, and road test. In addition, they will be fingerprinted en route to obtaining a Driving Privilege Card.
This will make Delaware roads safer for everyone — drivers and pedestrians alike. It will for the first time allow the undocumented residents to purchase car insurance from reputable insurance companies and to protect themselves and other Delawareans in case of an accident. Under the current situation, many Latinos were being victimized under unscrupulous insurance agencies, which claim to be offering insurance coverage for the premiums they pay every month — until an accident occurs.
This will also be a boost for the Delaware economy. Statistical studies find that from the estimated 35, 000 undocumented residents in Delaware, some 20,000 are likely to apply for the driving privilege cards, purchase insurance policies and are most likely to buy automobiles. This will increase employment opportunities and grow Delaware’s economy.
Statistics also show that the absence of the ability to legally drive is a primary barrier to receiving educational, medical, social and cultural services. This law satisfies all the law enforcement concerns while relieving these barriers for people to improve their quality of life.
At the end of the ceremony, one citizen extended his hand to the governor and said: “Mr. Governor, today you made good law.” Gov. Markell responded: “Yes, I firmly believe this is a good law for Delaware.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Charito Calvachi-Mateyko is co-chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission.