CT Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Resonates Among NY Chinese

(Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Connecticut now allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Chinese community leaders hope New York will follow and adopt such a law in the future. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

The Connecticut State Senate passed a bill on May 30 that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The bill passed in the Assembly the week before last. The Senate’s vote made Connecticut the fifth state in the country to allow driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Some Chinese community leaders in New York said that because Connecticut is a next-door neighbor the new law would certainly benefit many undocumented people here. They also hope New York adopts such a law in the near future.

The newly-passed legislation in Connecticut allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses starting in 2015. They have to prove they’ve been living in the state for at least 90 days, pass a driving test and pass a background check to rule out people with a felony record. The driver’s license will have “for driving purposes only” printed on the front to prevent immigrants from using it for other purposes such as boarding an airplane. Compared to the regular driver’s license, which needs to be renewed every six years, this one requires renewal every three years.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said the bill is a matter of public safety. Many undocumented immigrants have been driving even without a driver’s license. And once an accident happens, they are more likely to run away. That makes the roads more dangerous for everyone.

Before Connecticut, four other states including Colorado already had such a driver’s license law in place. But Connecticut is a next-door neighbor of New York. The new law there provides hope to undocumented immigrants here. Some leaders in the Fujianese community, where many are undocumented, think their people may want to take advantage of the new law.

Gang Yong Wang, chairman of Fuzhou United Friendship Association NY, said that although some other states already allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, those states were far from New York. Undocumented immigrants won’t travel far to get a driver’s license if they don’t need one badly. Now they can easily take a train for a short time to go to Connecticut. Even if they have to live there for three months in order to fulfill the requirements, it is not so hard to do. “They can find some odd work to do there during the time they live there. Ninety days will pass quickly,” said Wang.

Yuming Ye, president of Fuzhou Lang Qi Association, who was traveling in Europe, said in a telephone interview that many undocumented immigrants would certainly want to get a driver’s license if they can. Although it cannot be used as photo ID to board an airplane, it can at least help them to get in public schools to attend parent meetings. He said it would be the best if New York also passes a law like it.

In fact, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced some immigration proposals earlier this month. His package of policies include pushing for state legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses and issuing a municipal photo ID to help holders access public resources.

Regarding the new legislation in Connecticut, de Blasio said on May 30 that even without a driver’s license, many people would still take the risk of driving. The road in New York won’t be safe until these people can be brought into the legal system. He urges New York to become the sixth state to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

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