Driving privilege card focus of discussion at chamber breakfast

Pettyjohn visits to answer questions and get opinions on proposal
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, standing, met with members of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce March 12 and led a discussion regarding a driving privilege card for undocumented individuals in the state. SOURCE PATRICIA ANDERSON
March 15, 2014

State legislators recognize that undocumented individuals living in Delaware are driving illegally.

That is why the Undocumented Motorist Safety and Insurance Task Force was created in January. Senate Concurrent Resolution 36 charges the group with analyzing and making recommendations relating to the possibility of creating a driving privilege card for undocumented Delawareans who complete a motor safety course and obtain automobile insurance.

Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, is a member of the task force. He attended the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce's monthly breakfast meeting March 12 to answer questions and get opinions from local business owners regarding the implementation of this card.

Pettyjohn said proponents of the card say the program would allow undocumented individuals the ability to get insurance, promote job growth (although he's not heard these details and doesn't buy it), and will give law enforcement agents something to go on because they'll have to use foreign documents proving who they are to get the card.

Pettyjohn said he is watching how the program works in other states that have recently instituted similar laws, especially Maryland, whose law took effect Jan. 1.

"I'm very curious to see how it goes in those other states," he said.

Jeanne Dukes of Lewes Counseling in Lewes wondered how the program would actually work and if the undocumented individuals would willingly provide the state with information.

Pettyjohn said that was one of the first questions he asked. Using Maryland as an example again, he said the initial number of participants appears to be pretty high.

Charito Calvachi-Mateyko of the Delaware Hispanic Commission in Lewes said the majority of the individuals already provide the information so they can pay taxes and have bank accounts.

“They are willing. They trust so much. They wouldn't do it for their original country, but for America they would,” she said.

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, and Rep. Stephen T. Smyk, R-Milton, also attended the meeting. Both talked about how the card will help prevent identity fraud, but they talked about two different kinds.

Briggs-King said the card will help protect undocumented individuals from people taking advantage of them.

Smyk said it will help prevent undocumented individuals from creating false identification cards.

“Fraud is abundant. They'll steal an ID in Florida and then get a legitimate ID in New Jersey,” he said.

Bamdad Bahar of Service General in Georgetown applauded the state for being proactive and taking a constructive approach in dealing with the situation. He said part of the problem was the lack of public transportation in Sussex County, which forces undocumented individuals to drive.

The task force is supposed to issue a recommendation by Oct. 31. The next scheduled meeting for the task force is Wednesday, April 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Legislative Hall in Dover in the Senate Hearing Room on the second floor.