© 2024 WUKY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Driver's Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants

Josh James

While congressional Republicans and Democrats tangle over funding for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, a new conversation on immigration is starting in the Kentucky General Assembly. 

Fredy Encarnacion is a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Kentucky who has his heart set on going to dental school, a challenge for any young person but especially difficult for someone who is undocumented. Fredy and his parents made their way across the border with Mexico seeking treatment for his cleft lip and palate. As a childhood arrival currently shielded from deportation as part of President Obama’s DREAM program, he was able to obtain a driver's license – a benefit he wishes his parents could also enjoy.

"You don't have fear of driving down to the corner store or to pick up your daughter or your son from school or any after-school activity," he tells WUKY. "It's not having fear for law enforcement."

Under House Bill 267, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the state for at least three years could acquire special driver's licenses. It’s a move supporters argue would improve safety on Kentucky’s roadways, get undocumented drivers into the system, and provide some relief for working immigrants.

While the measure discussed in the House Transportation Committee Tuesday did not receive a vote, the idea earned bipartisan praise, which could signal momentum going into the 2016 session.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.