Rhode Island gets off the list of ‘invalid’ driver’s licenses recognized by Florida

By: - July 17, 2023 4:11 pm

The state of Florida has removed Rhode Island from its list of ‘invalid’ driver’s licenses after being contacted by the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. (Getty photo)

Earlier this month the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles listed out-of-state driver licenses issued to undocumented immigrants that would no longer be recognized by law enforcement in Florida — a provision of the sweeping anti-immigration bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that went into effect on July 1.

But shortly after that announcement, the agency removed the New England-based state — Rhode Island — from the list.

“Rhode Island was removed from the list of out-of-state driver license classes that are invalid in Florida, originally published on the FLHSMV website on July 1, 2023, after receiving information from the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles that their standard  (non-Real ID compliant) cards are the same as those issued to illegal immigrants without proof of legal presence in the United States,” says Molly Best, the director of communications for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in an email.

Rhode Island officials say that Florida officials didn’t fully understand how their new driver’s license for the undocumented works.

“Bud Craddock, the administrator of the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles, reached out to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and to his counterparts in Florida’s Highway Safety office to explain the Rhode Island law governing Driver Privilege Cards,” Paul Grimaldi, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island DMV tells the Phoenix in an email. “Florida officials acknowledged that they had misinterpreted the Rhode Island credential and removed it from the list of prohibited licenses.”

Specific classes of driver licenses from four states remain on the agency’s website as being invalid in Florida: Connecticut, Delaware and Hawaii. Florida had also previously included Vermont on the list but has since removed that state.

Rhode Island legislators passed a bill in 2022 allowing undocumented immigrants to be able to legally drive in the state. The law did not go into effect until July 1 of this year, the same day that Florida’s anti-immigration bill went into effect.

There are now 19 states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Florida’s new law prohibits a person from operating a motor vehicle if his or her driver’s license is issued by another state which exclusively provides such a license to undocumented immigrants who were unable to prove lawful presence in the U.S. when the licenses were issued.

The law (SB 1718) includes a number of provisions that have sparked widespread protests since the measure was passed by the Florida Legislature and later signed by Gov. DeSantis.

Other parts of the bill include requiring employers with 25 or more employees to use the E-Verify system for new employees; requiring hospitals to include a question on its admission forms inquiring whether a patient is a U.S. citizen; requiring a person who is in custody of a law enforcement agency and is subject to an immigration detainer to submit a DNA sample; and makes it a third-degree felony for someone to “knowingly” and “willingly” transporting individuals into Florida who may have entered the country without federal inspection.

It’s that section of the law that a coalition of organizations – including the ACLU of Florida, Americans for Immigrant Justice and the American Immigration Council -say is what they will challenge legally in yet to be filed federal lawsuit.

Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.