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DMV Testimony before Committee on Transportation and the Environment

Friday, June 7, 2013

Testimony of

Lucinda Babers,

Director, Department of Motor Vehicles


Before the Committee on Transportation and the Environment

Mary Cheh, Chairperson

Thursday, June 6, 2013

11:00 am – Room 412

The Wilson Building

Washington, DC

Good afternoon Chairman Cheh, Councilmembers and staff.  I am Lucinda Babers the Director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DC DMV).  Today I am here to share information related to five proposed DMV related Bills currently before the Council. 

Bill 20-177 Older Adult Driver Safety Amendment Act proposes to amend the eligibility for the defensive driver course, which allows for insurance discounts, for seniors from 55 years of age to 50 and to decrease the number of hours required for the course.  Additionally, the Bill provides for seniors taking the course online.  Although the Administration supports this Bill, it is recommended that Title 18, Chapter 9, Section 11 be amended to also confirm with the age requirement and course hours proposed by this Bill.

Bill 20-231 Veteran Status Designation on Driver’s License Amendment Act proposes to indicate a veteran status on driver licenses for eligible military members.  Although the Administration supports this Bill, we do recommend it also includes identification cards.  Also, October 1, 2013 is the earliest we could implement this change due to the need to integrate the change with a new licensing system being implemented.

Bill 20-279 Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Skills Test Amendment Act of 2013 proposes to decrease the time an applicant must wait to retake the commercial driver license skills test and increase the number of times per year the applicant may take test.  Although the Administration supports the concept of this Bill, we recommend the Bill be modified to have applicants wait at least 72 hours before retaking tests that were unsuccessfully attempted.  We further recommend the removal of the requirement that an applicant must wait seven days from any subsequent unsuccessful attempt at passing the skills test.  Also, this Bill should include these same requirements for the written CDL tests.  These recommendations will align the Bill with the current requirements for the non-commercial driver license skills test as set forth in Title 18, Chapter 1, Section 4, and eliminate confusion by promoting consistency.  

The remainder of my testimony will focus on two Bills which have resulted in considerable discussion within the Council and throughout the city.  Bill 20-61 Non-Driver’s ID Card/Driver’s License Amendment Act proposes to prohibit DMV from requiring a social security number (SSN) to obtain a driver license or identification card if the customer indicates they do not have a SSN.  The Administration opposes this Bill as proposed by the Council.  Bill 20-275 District of Columbia Drivers Safety Amendment Act proposes to issue a driver license or identification card to undocumented residents, who meet certain criteria, and mark the credentials with “not for federal purposes.”  This Bill was submitted by the Administration and should be supported by the Council.

Public safety, especially traffic safety, is one of the cornerstones of Mayor Gray’s Administration.  DC DMV is a public safety agency which ensures residents can safely operate properly registered and insured vehicles.  The issuance of a driver license to undocumented residents directly relates to ensuring those driving on the District’s roadways have been properly tested, for both driving knowledge and driving skills, to ensure the safety of all residents.  Since a recent California DMV study showed unlicensed drivers in California were nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash then licensed drivers, it is important for motor vehicle agencies to take the necessary steps to license all individuals who may be driving on our roadways to improve safety.  Evidence exists that many of these unlicensed drivers are most likely undocumented and unable to legally obtain a driver license or insurance.

Once an undocumented resident has been issued a valid DMV license, he or she is then eligible to legally register a vehicle that can be insured in the District.  With the District’s uninsured motorist rate estimated to be 15% by the Insurance Research Council, this move to license and register vehicles of undocumented residents could also decrease the economic burden motorists incur when faced with an uninsured motorist.

The Bill allowing undocumented residents to obtain DMV credentials would require they show six months District residency; be ineligible to obtain a Social Security Number; obtain an individual identification number from the Internal Revenue Service; and be unable to show lawful presence documentation from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Additionally, the credentials would be marked as “not for federal purposes.”  This marking means the credentials cannot be used to board an airplane or enter federal buildings.  We would require a valid foreign birth certificate or passport to assist with identification.  Also, we would need sufficient time to do the necessary computer programming, outreach and operational changes necessary to implement this Bill.  These requirements are similar to laws in Maryland, Illinois, Washington, Utah, Oregon and New Mexico.

For those jurisdictions who allow some type of credential for undocumented individuals, Utah, Washington, Oregon (which will implement its law in January 2014) and Illinois (which will implement its law in November 2013) issue a driver privilege card which cannot be used for identification.  Maryland’s law, which will be implemented in January 2014, will allow for both a driver license and identification card which must be marked “not for federal purposes.”  Of the six jurisdictions which currently have legislation passed to issue credentials to undocumented individuals, New Mexico is the only jurisdiction which issues its regular, unmarked driver license to undocumented individuals.  It should also be noted all six jurisdictions require the individual be ineligible to obtain a social security number (SSN) or be required to use a tax identification number in the place of a SSN.

Three additional jurisdictions, Vermont, Connecticut and Colorado, all have legislation passed that is awaiting the Governor’s signature.  Vermont’s pending law will issue driver privilege cards and identification cards marked not valid for federal identification or official purposes.  Connecticut’s pending law will allow for a driver license which will be marked as both not being acceptable for federal purposes and that it can be used for driving purposes only.  Colorado’s pending law will allow for a driver license and identification card that is marked not valid for federal identification, voting or public benefit purposes.  Additionally, both Connecticut and Colorado’s pending laws require the applicant to file an affidavit that he/she has either filed an application to legalize his/her immigration status or will file an application as soon as he/she is eligible. 

Finally, as of May 31, 2013, five jurisdictions, North Carolina, Rhode Island, California, Texas and Nevada, are having discussions within the respective legislatures about various legislation which would impact undocumented residents ability to drive or obtain identification cards. 

There has been discussion as to why the Bill does not propose to simply issue the same credential DC DMV currently issues versus marking the credential as “not for federal purposes.”  By marking the credentials as such, we will continue to comply with federal requirements which require such markings on licenses which do not fully meet REAL ID requirements.  Further, we will reduce the opportunity for illegal activity as it relates to the issuance of these secure credentials.  As previously stated, the only jurisdiction which currently issues the same credentials to both documented and undocumented residents is New Mexico.  This process has been problematic for New Mexico.

In April 2013, the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department reported two individuals were arrested in Farmington after a Mexican National drove from Georgia to New Mexico to illegally obtain a driver license through an organized crime ring.  In January 2013, three illegal immigrants living in New York from Ecuador were arrested for fraudulently applying for a New Mexico driver license.  In January 2013, six Brazilian nationals living in Florida and Kansas were arrested for fraudulently applying for a New Mexico driver license. In January 2012, a resident of Alamogordo, New Mexico, was arrested for a scheme involving a conspiracy to assist illegal immigrants of Middle Eastern decent to obtain genuine New Mexico driver licenses through fraudulent means involving supplying them with fraudulent residency documents.  In June 2012, an illegal foreign national from Mexico and his family were accused of running a $30,000 per month operation that included human traffickers, mail collectors, and a public notary signing false affidavits to illegally obtain New Mexico driver licenses for foreign nationals from Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, Guatemala, Uruguay and Honduras who were living in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Illinois. In August 2011, three leaders of a Chinese crime ring were indicted based on evidence they were running ads in Chinese newspapers in New York City promising New Mexico driver licenses to illegal immigrants. In October 2010, New Mexico State Police arrested two Chinese nationals accused of being part of an illegal driver license scheme at a motor vehicle office in Santa Fe.  In September 2010, New Mexico State Police arrested a Costa Rican national in Albuquerque for his suspected role in helping four illegal immigrants obtain driver licenses.  In September 2010, State Police arrested a Brazilian man who tried to obtain licenses for two other Brazilians in Albuquerque. In July 2010, an Illinois man was arrested after helping two undocumented Polish immigrants who live in Illinois get licenses in Albuquerque.

As indicated in a Delaware DMV April 2013 Impact Analysis, the business of identity management was not the original business of motor vehicle agencies.  Instead, DMVs originally only issued a driving privilege card, and using it for identification purposes was secondary.  However, as the driver license became more widely accepted as identification, it was apparent the driver licensing issuing authorities (i.e., DMVs) needed to ensure they were confident the person standing in front of them was who they claimed to be.  As the years have passed, identity management has continually solidified itself as a part of DMV’s responsibility.  As referenced in the 2012 American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrator (AAMVA) North American DL/ID Card Design Standard, in 2002, the AAMVA Board of Directors approved the following list of functional requirements for the DL/ID card:

 --Evidence of the privilege to drive


--Age Verification

--Address/residence verification

--Automated administrative processing

The shift from issuing a driving privilege only to issuing a driving privilege that equally serves as an identification document is directly connected to the potential use of a driver license for fraud.

The use of a SSN or the confirmation that an individual is unable to obtain a SSN is critical to the identification process.  If Bill 20-61, which prohibits DC DMV from requiring a SSN, even when an individual has one, were to become law, DC DMV would have to mark these credentials as “not for federal purposes” to not jeopardize the ability of our documented residents to board planes and enter federal buildings.  This marking would be necessary because the Bill is also counter to federal requirements (ie, REAL ID).  Also, the requirement for a social security number is an added safety feature to protect an individual from being wrongfully suspended or revoked since there are people with the same or similar names and birthdates.

 In summary, we support four of the five proposed bills, some with recommended changes, and do not support the Bill which prohibits DC DMV from requiring social security numbers regardless of whether the individual has one.

We appreciate the continued support we’ve received from you, this Committee and your staff.  It would be my pleasure to respond to any questions you may have.  Thank You!