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Koval Urges Driver Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

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In a letter to Governor Tony Evers  and state legislators Wednesday, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval urged the state to issue driver licenses to undocumented immigrants in order to increase trust between immigrants and law enforcement and to make roads safer.

The letter was also signed by Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney, UW Police Chief Kristen Roman, Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke, Monona Police Chief Walter Ostrenga, Shorewood Hills Police Chief Aaron Chapin, Sun Prairie Police Chief Patrick Anhalt, Oregon Police Chief Brian Uhl, Fitchburg Police Chief Chad Brecklin and Dane County Emergency Management Director Charles Tubbs.

Evers has already proposed the change in his 2020 budget.

Police officers work tirelessly every day in our state to establish meaningful relationships founded on trust, however we often encounter people who are fearful of any interaction with law enforcement because of their immigration status,” Koval wrote in the letter. “We believe this proposal will help to eliminate this fear that impedes our efforts to build trust and relationships with our undocumented residents.”

In the letter Koval said current law prohibits about 32,000 Wisconsin residents from having driver licenses, about 12,000 of which are parents of US citizens, “and all share an obvious need to drive legally.  Without a valid driver’s license, these people face barriers to meeting basic needs in their daily lives that many of us take for granted such as travelling to work, taking their children to school and activities, grocery shopping, attending appointments and visiting places of worship.”

Koval notes that this need to drive causes many people to do so without licenses — and without insurance.

“It was recently estimated that if this proposal does pass, almost 28,000 uninsured drivers will become insured drivers,” Koval wrote.

Republican lawmakers have already said they will not allow the proposal to stay in the state budget.

“It’s a nonstarter because, first of all, we shouldn’t be incentivizing illegal behavior,” State Rep. Adam Neylon told WTMJ last month.

Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia already allow undocumented immigrants to have driver licenses.

The proposal also has the backing of the Immigration and Refugee Task Force, a local coalition of stakeholders, which recommended the change in June 2018.