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R.I. Senate to support driving privileges for people in the country illegally

The move would end a decade-long battle by activists who have urged three different Rhode Island governors to approve such legislation

The Rhode Island State House seen from Kennedy Plaza in Providence.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Senate is poised to approve legislation that would grant driving privileges to people in the country illegally, potentially ending a years-long battle from immigration activists who have urged three governors to support those rights.

State Senator Frank Ciccone, a Providence Democrat, said he expects the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on the bill next week, and he said the vast majority of the full chamber supports the bill.

“I’m elated,” Ciccone said. “It’s been a long time.”

Ciccone said the bill is modeled after one approved in Virginia, which requires applicants to be a non-US citizen who is resident of the state, have a reported income from within the state, and not have their driving privileges suspended in any state.


In Virginia, drivers are also expected to show two forms of identity, two proofs of residency, and a tax identification number.

The Rhode Island version of the bill is expected to be posted on Friday, according to Ciccone. He said believes the House of Representatives will approve the bill as well. Governor Dan McKee is also expected to support the bill.

Advocates have been urging state leaders to approve driver’s licenses for people in the country illegally since Lincoln Chafee was elected governor in 2010. Former governor Gina Raimondo also pledged to support a bill, but it never came up for a vote.

Ciccone said he initially opposed the bill when advocates first started asking for it, but he said his Silver Lake neighborhood is now heavily Latino. He said he believes his constituents should be allowed to drive and qualify for insurance.

“It’s been my mission,” he said.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.