Advocates Press for Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented New Yorkers

Members of the Green Light NY coalition took to Albany to request the approval of the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act. (Photo via El Diario)

A broad coalition of activists and pro-immigrant advocates, along with a number of elected officials, raised their voices in Albany to demand that the State Legislature approve a bill that would grant undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses.

On Wednesday, the Green Light NY coalition gathered at the state Capitol to ask the Assembly to approve the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act (A.10273), a piece of legislation that would give all New Yorkers, undocumented immigrants included, the go-ahead to apply for driving permits.

The bill, introduced by Bronx Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, would raise an estimated $57 million in annual income for state and county registration fees and sales and gas taxes, in addition to more than $26 million in one-time revenue, as more people will be obtaining their license, buying cars and registering new vehicles.

“New York needs to do what other states have done, that is, to allow undocumented immigrants to have access to a driver’s license, bringing them out of the shadows, allowing them to have a legal way to have car insurance and open bank accounts to secure their hard-earned wages,” said Crespo, who is the chair of the Assembly’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, urged the Legislature to approve bill A.10273, which he described as historic, citing that it will allow all New Yorkers to move around safely through the streets and save many lives.

“It will be a great step for New York’s immigrants, who will be able to drive to and from work, open bank accounts, buy car insurance and be less fearful when reporting crimes. We are expecting to collaborate with the state and our governor on the work that remains to be done with great interest,” said Choi.

Jorge García, a member of Make the Road New York, mentioned Long Island as an example to justify passing the bill, saying that the lack of public transportation in that area is evident.

“Getting anywhere by bus takes hours, and the train is too expensive. We need licenses for everyone, because on Long Island driving and having a car is a necessity,” said García. “Driving without a license would put me at risk of being arrested and deported and separated from my family.”

At the moment, 12 states and Washington D.C. allow residents to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of their immigrations status.

“That, in 2018, New York’s immigrants have to worry that a routine traffic stop may end in deportation is unconscionable. Denying access to driver’s licenses to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers does not benefit anyone,” said Lewis O. Papenfuse, director of the Worker Justice Center.

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