LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Nevada’s Republican governor signed a bill on Friday to authorize driving privilege cards for illegal immigrants in an action that is likely to win favor in the state’s large and growing Hispanic community.
A moderate Republican of Mexican ancestry in a state where Hispanic residents comprise over a quarter of the population, Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill in a ceremony at the state capitol.
The step comes amid national efforts for immigration reform that saw a U.S. Senate panel approve landmark comprehensive immigration legislation earlier this month that would usher in the biggest changes in immigration policy in a generation if passed by Congress.
“Allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s privilege card will increase the number of drivers on Nevada’s roads that are insured and aware of traffic rules and regulations,” Sandoval said in a statement.
The Nevada law, which passed the Democratic-led state Senate and Assembly this month, will allow immigrants to use foreign birth certificates to obtain driving cards that would be valid for a year.
Sandoval emphasized that the card would not be accepted as identification and said that applicants must still pass a driving test and understand traffic laws, and would be required to obtain insurance.
A number of other states have also opted to grant driving rights to illegal immigrants, with Connecticut’s legislature approving a bill allowing such licenses on Thursday. Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy said he would sign the bill.
Maryland, Illinois and Oregon adopted similar legislation this year, while illegal immigrants were already able to get licenses in New Mexico, Washington and Utah.
A fiscal conservative popular in Nevada, Sandoval has tried to avoid getting embroiled in the volatile fight over immigration that has drawn stark social battle lines in neighboring Arizona, whose Republican governor has clashed with Washington over immigration.
Reporting by Alexia Shurmur; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer