The crowd at Mayor Vince Gray‘s packed press conference this afternoon was in a good mood. By this reporter’s count, the mayor dispensed five high-fives, two hugs, and two hugs with high-fives while announcing legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for District driver’s licenses. But when it came to the issue of what the licenses will look like, not every was feeling cheery.
If the bill passes—-Gray wants to sign it by the D.C. Council’s July recess—-the driver’s license would be stamped with a notice indiciating the card cannot used for federal ID purposes. The stamp, an effort to avoid violating the federal REAL ID Act, would distinguish the licenses of undocumented immigrants from those of other U.S. residents. It would also prevent holders from using the ID for certain purposes, like entering federal buildings or boarding a plane.
“Otherwise, it will look like any other driver’s license,” says Gray. The mayor hopes that the stamp will satisfying “rumbling” he’s heard from Congress about the bill.
It certainly won’t satisfy some immigration activists, one of whom called for Gray to follow his “One City” slogan by also legislating “one license.” Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham have written their own legislation that would create an unstamped license indistinguishable from a legal resident’s.
Graham says he’s been happy to have the mayor’s support for the licenses, but worries about the consequences of separate licenses for different residency statuses.
“He went as far as he can,” Graham says. “We’re going to go as far as we can.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery