NJ Legislators Put the Brakes on Driver License Bill

Hundreds, most of them Hispanic, call for the adoption of the law that would grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Hundreds of demonstrators, most of them Hispanic, call for the adoption of a law that would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

The bill that would give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants has very slim chances of getting approved in the current legislative session, which ends Jan. 15, after the Transportation Committee decided on Dec. 10 not to to discuss it or put it to a vote.

During the meeting, packed with Latinos that showed up in support of the initiative, Transportation Committee chairman Nicholas Sacco (D-District 32), said that bill S2925 would not be discussed during the session and that the proposal should be modified to be considered by the committee.   

Sacco, who is also the mayor of North Bergen, said that he supports the bill but that it requires changes.

Hispanic senator Nilsa Cruz-Pérez, who sits on the Transportation Committee, explained that the proposal needs to be changed to make sure there are stricter controls on the documentation applicants must present when requesting a driver’s license.   

Cruz-Pérez also said that the changes are necessary since Gov. Chris Christie has made clear that he will not sign the bill in its current form.

“We’re in support of the law, but our objective is to tailor a bill that can get approved and that gets signed once it lands on the governor’s desk,” Cruz-Pérez said.

Yet, this proposal (A4425 and S2925), known as the “New Jersey Safe and Responsible Drivers Act” has been modeled on a law approved in California that was evaluated and backed by the Department of Homeland Security.

For the federal government, this law contains all the security measures necessary to guarantee that the people receiving licenses are who they claim to be.

On the other hand, since the beginning of the driver’s license debate began, Gov. Christie has repeated that he would veto the law. That is why the argument that the proposal would not be approved because of the governor’s impending rejection took many by surprise.

The immigrant community had hopes that the Democratic legislators, who are the majority in both chambers, would approve the proposal, and once that happened  it would be sent to the governor’s desk.

Through an intense campaign, immigrants rights organizations hoped that the governor would sign the bill into law, just as it happened with the Tuition Equality Act in January 2014 after legislators made the changes he demanded during the plenary session.

But the terrorist attacks in France and San Bernardino made the legislators have a change of heart, and they now prefer not to approve the proposal and postpone once more this important piece of legislation.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, who wrote and sponsored the bill, said during a meeting last Thursday that the die was cast in this matter and that they would have to wait until the next legislative session.

“The senate will not hear our proposal in this legislative session ending in January. That means that I would have to introduce the bill (for driver’s licenses) in the next legislative session,” Assemblywoman Quijano said.

She also said that she was talking to elected officials in other states where undocumented immigrants can get driver’s licenses, “to see how we’re going to work this proposal, so that the legislators that will be voting on this understand this is an issue of security and not of immigration. We’re working on that and we’re coming back with more strength than never before.”

She insisted that this is a security issue because, “the state of New Jersey must know who is driving on its streets. The person driving must know the rules of this country, must be trained, must have a license and car insurance.”

For activist Carlos Rojas, from the organization Faith in New Jersey, there is still a small possibility.

“If the legislature decided to extend the number of sessions before the end of this legislative period comes to an end, perhaps the law could be approved. But we don’t know if they would be willing to do that.”

Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Pérez said that she will meet in the coming days with Assemblywoman Quijano and other senators to discuss the changes Gov. Christie wants to see in the bill in order to sign it.

In the meantime, Cruz-Pérez urged the community to keep the pressure on and attend the legislative sessions to demonstrate to legislators how important it is to approve this bill.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: A Campaign for Driver’s Licenses for the Undocumented in NYSVoices of NY

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