D.C. Could Abolish SSN Requirement for Driver’s Licenses

Washington, D.C., is the capitol of the United States, with thousands of diplomats and international students working and traveling in the district who have absolutely no way of getting a driver’s license since they cannot obtain a social security number. At the same time, D.C. law requires people who live in the city and who operate a vehicle to obtain a driver’s license. The D.C. DMV does not make exceptions to this rule and it has become impossible for a sizable segment of the population to actually get driver’s licenses or even ID cards.

A small piece of legislation introduced by D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson would fix that by abolishing the social security number requirement. Mendelson told The Examiner that he was inspired to introduce the bill after hearing from perfectly legal U.S. residents living in the District of Columbia who were opposed to having Social Security numbers.

“There’s no rational reason for saying in order to drive a car, you have to have a Social Security number,” Mendelson said. “I’m much more interested in whether you’re texting while driving, paying attention and know how to drive.”

No, this is not about giving all the undocumented immigrants taking over the Capitol a license to drive. As it is, the D.C. DMV does not require proof of legal presence to get a permit or license. And even if the plan gives undocumented residents a permit to drive, the anti-immigrant furor over driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants hardly makes sense unless our anti-immigrant friends see driving as a zero-sum game with winners and losers. It’s not clear who the winner is but everyone loses when people drive without insurance and permits.

The Non-Driver’s ID/Driver’s License Amendment Act of 2011 would promote public safety in the greater DMV area since it would reduce uninsured and unlicensed drivers on the road. Moreover, it would restore what getting a driver’s license is all about: the ability and qualifications to drive, not the privilege of having a nine-digit number.

The proposal is not contrary to any federal laws. In fact, even the Social Security Administration agrees that lawfully admitted non-citizens “do not need a number to get a driver’s license.” Everyone who has the ability and qualifications to drive a motor vehicle should have the right to get a license. Tell your Councilmember to support the legislation.

Photo Credit: cdharrison

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