Driver’s Licenses For Immigrants?

Thomas MacMillan PhotoChris Murphy didn’t say yes. And he didn’t say no.

Instead Murphy (at center in photo) changed the subject when, at the tail end of a campaign stop full of softball, crowd-pleasing banter in Fair Haven, he faced a tough question for a candidate for statewide office: Should undocumented immigrants be allowed to get driver’s licenses?

The exchange came at during a Friday afternoon campaign swing through Fair Haven Friday afternoon. Murphy was in town to try to sew up New Haven’s Latino vote in his quest to become the state’s next U.S. senator. Murphy, a Democrat, faces Republican Linda McMahon Nov. 6 in an election to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Friday’s event was organized with the Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA). It ended up at the group’s second-floor Grand Avenue office after a walk through the neighborhood. The tour stopped at C-Town grocery store and START Bank and included the obligatory visit to a local Grand Avenue barber shop.

During a question and answer period, Mexican immigrant Emma Gonzalez (at center in photo) spoke up. She owns a food truck, Tacos La Fuente. She said she has trouble with her business because one of her employees—an immigrant—can’t get a license. Through an interpreter, Gonzalez asked :“What can [Murphy] do for immigrants who have been here a long time?” Can he make it so they can get licenses?

The same question came up less than a week earlier, two blocks away at a forum at St. Rose of Lima Church, where Police Chief Dean Esserman promised to help the congregation lobby the state to allow more immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses.

Murphy, unlike Esserman, did not answer the question directly. He responded that the federal government’s failure to reform immigration laws has forced states and municipalities to issue their own ID cards. “The federal government needs to solve this problem,” he said.

Murphy said he’s focused on setting up a “pathway to citizenship.”

“Let’s force the federal government to step up to the plate,” he said. It’s “neither practical nor compassionate” to deport the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country, Murphy said.

Asked again later about undocumented immigrants and driver’s licenses, Murphy replied, “That’s really a state issue. My focus is just on a federal approach to immigration reform.”

Asked if he thinks undocumented immigrants should be able to have driver’s licenses to allow them to drive, Murphy said that undocumented immigrants drive already, which is “just more reason” why federal immigration reform is necessary.

Gonzalez said she was pleased with Murphy’s response to her question. “He’s going to help.”

McMahon’s campaign did not return a call for comment.


Murphy’s Fair Haven campaign stop Friday began with a visit to START community bank, right below SAMA’s offices. Murphy praised the bank’s financial literacy programs and said the federal government could help support that, to get more people in urban areas to open bank accounts.

Across the street, Murphy took a look at a hole in the ground where NeighborWorks New Horizons plans to build a new mixed-use building with affordable housing by next March.

He toured the nearby offices of Neighborworks.

He praised the housing organization’s work and related how his mother had lived in affordable housing in New Britain.

He greeted 8 year-old Anarea Moore, who asked him, “Are you beating Linda McMahon?”

“I hope so!” Murphy replied. “Go out and tell all your friends’ parents to vote for me.”

Murphy was joined by New Haven U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (at left in photo) and New Haven state Rep. Juan Candelaria (at left in top photo), along with Fair Haven Alderman Ernie Santiago.

Murphy and DeLauro shook hands with shoppers in C-Town grocery…

... and posed for photos outside.

Murphy chatted with first-time voter Josue Rivera. “He seems like a real nice guy. I’d like to know more about him,” Rivera said, after Murphy walked away. “It’s nice seeing him around.”

People stopped and took cell phone pictures as Murphy and his entourage passed by. Children called out to him by name from school buses. “You can’t avoid my face on TV,” Murphy said. “It’s on 20 times a night between my commercials and [McMahon’s].”

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posted by: Mike Slattery on November 1, 2012  12:23pm

He didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no, but he answered the question! 

Licenses themselves are a state issue, why wade in there?  Shoring up a path to legal status is a federal issue.

I am insanely partisan for Murphy, but this seems straightforward to me.  Very glad to see that he is out meeting our voters.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 1, 2012  1:50pm

Murphy the panderer - and he’s scared to tell the truth. This is not a state issue. This is a federal issue and Connecticut’s licenses comply with the federal law called Real ID. That means you have to have all the documentation for being a citizen. The last time I renewed my license and when my son got his license - we had to come with a utility bill, a bank statement or government correspondence to our real address within the last 90 days; an original birth certificate notarized; insurance papers; and so on.

That’s why Murphy waffled on the question and by doing so, was dishonest in his answer. How can you have a real conversation with voters about public policy if you can’t be honest about what the public policy currently is?

posted by: Mike Slattery on November 1, 2012  2:30pm

Touché Noteworthy.  I forgot about Real ID.  You need to prove legal status.  So, from this article he is clearly not interested in compromising the REAL ID Act, he’s interested in creating paths to legal status.    That’s spelled out so you can agree or disagree.

What I find unclear is at what point the word ‘undocumented’ appeared during the exchange, but the position is there.

posted by: leibzelig on November 1, 2012  4:08pm

Let’s see if I have this right. Friend noteworthy says that it is up to the United States Senate to determine who should be eligible for a state driver’s license. Hmmmm. The Constitution says something like all things specifically not the province of the federal government are the province of the states. You know; states’ rights. So let’s blame a person running for federal office for not answering a question that had nothing to do with the office he is seeking or, for that matter, the office he now holds.
This sounds as logical as the McMahon ad blaming Rep. Chris Murphy, a member of the House minority, for not passing certain bills that were held up by the House majority as part of the Speaker’s declaration that his sole purpose these two years is to deny the president re-election.
That makes as much sense as her commercial in which she says she was so poor she had to use green stamps to purchase things. Unless she stole them, she got green stamps when she made a purchase. With money.
After her defeat, I would like to ask her a question: Couldn’t the $80 million or so you spent trying to get elected to the Senate (twice) have been put to better use hiring teachers, cops, firefighters and helping the small businesses you say you champion get off the ground?

posted by: Nathan on November 1, 2012  4:44pm

Thomas MacMillan wrote:

She said she has trouble with her business because one of her employees—an immigrant—can’t get a license. Through an interpreter, Gonzalez asked :“What can [Murphy] do for immigrants who have been here a long time?”

My answer:

English classes, it would seem.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 1, 2012  5:15pm

Wake up Latino people.Just Like Black people have Judas Goat Leaders.There are Latino Judas goat leaders who bring in white carpetbagger politicians who when they get in office you will not seen them again.You should have ask him about Term Limits.

posted by: Sagimore on November 2, 2012  4:08pm

How did he answer the question! DO YOU THINK IMMIGRANTS SHOULD BE ABLE TO DRIVE?

They didn’t ask him if he would fight for it. They just asked him what he thought. If you read this and think he gave a good answer you are really blinded, I’m undecided, but leaning toward Murphy. But this is just a horrible wishy wash answer, if you cant see that you should realize that your view is totally distorted. Id rather know where someone stands and disagree with it then not know where they stand. Taking a stance take just a little guts. This answer took none.