“It’s time,” said two-time sponsor of the legislation. “I want a vote on the bill. I’ve already approached the leadership on the Senate side. Let’s not delay and let’s not send it to further study. Hopefully it did not fall on deaf ears. They are considering it right now.”
Representative Anastasia Williams, the House sponsor of the bill, said she continues to lobby Speaker Nick Mattiello, who campaigned against the bill, calling undocumented Rhode Islanders “illegal immigrants” in campaign literature.
“Yeah, he campaigned against a lot of things,” she said. “However it’s about us convincing him showing him the way once and for all about how important, how necessary on behalf and for the people of Rhode Island. I have spoken to the Speaker on numerous occasions about not only this bill but also about white privilege and he has softened enough to say … he is open. I am confident I will entertain the conversation with him again with regards to the opportunity of this legislation being vetted and voted and brought into the chamber once and for all.”
She added, “let the elected officials vote it up or down.”
Ciccone and Williams were speaking at a State House press conference yesterday. Ciccone focused on some of the nuts and bolts of the highly charged bill that has become a centerpiece of the immigration debate in Rhode Island.
Rep. Ramon Perez, an immigrant to America himself 22 years ago, gave an emotional speech about why the time is right for Rhode Island to act on driver’s licenses for undocumented people.
“Since the last election, we see a lot of people complaining in the streets about the new president, but nobody is doing anything,” he said. “We have to speak loud and support the people who really need our help. I ask everybody if they really feel what is happening in this country, then speak loud.”
He compelled activists to reach out to their legislators. “If we make many calls,” he said. “If we make the people of the district call every representative and we make a strong enough voice to get into the Speaker’s ear, then we can get something.”
Ciccone confirmed that phone calls to leadership are being made from Newport, Jamestown and western Cranston.
“It strictly about the safety of everyone in Rhode Island,” he said referencing a Roger Williams University study that showed granting undocumented Rhode Islanders drivers licenses would be good for the economy and for insurance rates.
“It cannot be used as evidence of citizenship or immigration status,” Ciccone said, noting that people with felony convictions would be prevented from obtaining the license. “More importantly, it also requires certification from the tax administrator that the applicant has filed tax returns within the state of Rhode Island for the previous two years. Further an affidavit must be filed with the divison of motor vehicles attesting that the application to legalize immigration status has been or will be filed as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile Williams spoke about how passing the bill would be an important step in showing that Rhode Island isn’t aligned with the Trump agenda.
“I would hope to see it become a law this year,” she said. “We have too much hateful things occurring with this president. and unless we stand together for change for positive things we will be consumed…”