Governors Speed Ahead on Immigration with 2016 in sight
By KEVIN ROBILLARD, Politico
Several governors with potential 2016 ambitions are speeding ahead with plans to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, nearly six years after the issue tripped up Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes.
Democratic Govs. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Peter Shumlin of Vermont and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada have all signed legislation granting driving privileges to at least some undocumented immigrants, part of a wave of seven states adopting similar laws so far this year. In an eighth state, Florida, lawmakers passed a bill by overwhelming margins only to see Republican Gov. Rick Scott veto it.
As of Jan. 1, only four states — Washington, California, Utah and New Mexico — had such laws in place.
Supporters say licenses promote safety by getting the immigrants to comply with traffic safety laws, meet insurance requirements and pay the necessary fees.
“This is not about politics,” Sandoval said last month at a signing ceremony for Nevada’s bill. “This is about making roads safer.” He added, “This is good for everybody.”
Opponents charge that the laws turn driver’s licenses into a reward for being in the country illegally.
But the eagerness of prominent governors from both parties to embrace the legislation shows how much the politics of immigration has changed since October 2007, when Clinton’s fumbling of a debate question about a proposed driver’s license law became the first serious stumbling block in what had seemed her inevitable road to the White House.
Six years later, following two presidential elections in which Democrats won with overwhelming support from Hispanic voters, the political risks appear to have dimmed while governors and state legislators try to woo a Latino populace that will soon encompass one-third of the nation. A similar dynamic is at play in Congress, where the Senate has been consumed with an attempt at sweeping changes to federal immigration policy.
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