Push for licenses for undocumented immigrants
by Salvatore Isola
Apr 24, 2019 | 3260 views | 0 0 comments | 157 157 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Surrounded by a sea of flags from several nations in front of Borough Hall, Borough President Eric Adams urged support of a bill that would permit undocumented immigrants to obtain state-issued driver’s licenses.

The rally was the primary event during Adams’ Immigrant Day of Friendship on April 17, part of the City-wide Immigrant Heritage Week.

Among those lending their support was The Green Light New York Coalition, which is comprised of over 200 organizations, including Make The Road New York and the New York Immigration Coalition.

The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act would expand access to driver’s licenses for all residents of New York State, with their immigration status having no effect on their eligibility. The bill is currently in committee in the State Senate and Assembly.

“We can’t continue to consider ourselves to be a progressive city if we are not taking the progressive steps to allow New Yorkers to provide for their families and move around,” said Adams.

Currently, 752,000 undocumented immigrants over 16 who reside in New York are prevented from obtaining licenses, and an additional 70,000 residents with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are at risk of losing their driver’s licenses due to their immigration status.

“That is unacceptable,” Adams said.

Proponents of the act say it would increase safety and boost the economy. Adams argued that a “valid state-wide form of identification” enhances security for undocumented New Yorkers and fosters a greater trust between them and traffic law enforcement, since they have verifiable ID when reporting a crime.

He added that hit-and-runs would decrease, as less undocumented immigrants would risk driving without a license.

The law is also estimated to provide an economic boom of $57 million a year, which, in turn, will lower insurance premiums for all drivers.

“This is a win-win situation for all of us,” Adams said.

Enrique Nunez, an immigrant and member of Make the Road New York, said he rides a bicycle to work every day because he is unable to get a driver’s license and public transportation is unreliable.

“Why would we not want to have licensed drivers on the road?” asked Assemblywoman Jo Ann Simons. “That protects everybody.”

She said it is even more of an issue in upstate communities.

“They don’t have the kind of public transit we have, and you can’t bicycle across some of these districts,” Simon added.

Similar laws are already in effect in the District of Columbia and 13 states, including Utah and Wisconsin. In Connecticut, where the law went into effect in 2015, hit-and-runs have decreased.

“We need both houses to take up this legislation so we can pass it, and it can be on the governor’s desk during this legislative cycle that concludes in June,” said Adams.

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