HARRISBURG - Thousands of Pennsylvania residents will not lose their driver's licenses this week after the ACLU and a coalition of immigrants' rights advocates convinced the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to postpone a June 19 deadline for license cancellation. The agency recently sent out a misleading letter informing thousands of people that their driver's licenses were cancelled because PennDOT could not verify their Social Security numbers. In Pennsylvania non-citizens do not need a Social Security number to hold a driver's license.
In response to panicked calls from drivers across the state, the ACLU and the Philadelphia chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association sent a letter Monday, June 15, to PennDOT Director Janet Dolan, pointing out the errors in PennDOT's letter and requesting that the department postpone the cancellation deadline to give drivers more time to verify their identities. PennDOT has agreed to reissue the notice with an extended deadline and corrected information about documents needed to contest a license cancellation.
In the negotiations with PennDOT, immigrants' rights advocates stressed both the likelihood that the errors in the notice would cause some immigrants to be improperly denied licenses and deter others from even attempting to maintain their driving status.
"We're pleased the commonwealth was responsive to our concern that the May 29 notice was misleading and otherwise deficient in notifying people of their rights and responsibilities," said Witold Walczak, Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The only appropriate cure was to redo the notification and we're pleased the commonwealth will be doing that."
For the large number of Pennsylvanians who live or work outside a major city with a public transportation system, who do not have sufficient resources to hire taxi cabs or chauffeurs, or who have jobs involving operation of a motor vehicle, a driver's license is essential to employment and daily life.
In addition to the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, HIAS and the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition have been active in raising awareness of the issue.
More information, including a copy of the May 29 letter and June 15 letter to PennDOT can be found here.