Activists Vow to Continue Fight for NJ Driver’s Licenses

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Once again, New Jersey politicians failed to fulfill the promise they made to the state’s immigrant community. As the 2018 legislative sessions drew to a close, the licenses were still not approved.

“They made a fool of us once again. They promised us licenses this year and did nothing, but we will not remain quiet. We will continue fighting until these licenses are approved,” said Rosana Hernández, who took part in a demonstration held on Dec. 17 in front of the state’s governor’s offices in Trenton to demand driver’s licenses. (…)

However, the frustration is not stopping the community. Activists say they will fight on in 2019 to push bills S.3442 and A.4743, which would allow undocumented immigrants and other residents who have trouble fulfilling the requirements of the Real ID act to obtain a driver’s license.

“(…) This law will only pass if the people rise up. That is why we at Cosecha will keep focused on mobilizing them in 2019, until the time comes when politicians can no longer ignore us,” said Carlos Rojas, leader of the Movimiento Cosecha (Cosecha Movement).

Johanna Calle, director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said that politicians have no excuse for not having approved the bills. The nonprofit led the Let’s Drive NJ campaign, which was joined by 70 other community, religious and labor organizations.

Calle expressed her frustration regarding the inaction of political leaders during the march, held the day of the last legislative session: “We have the votes in the Legislature to have the bill passed, but leaders in both chambers do not want to put it up for a vote,” said Calle. “People are here on the street. Lawmakers must listen to them.”

She added that the organizations worked with legislators to create a bill to issue the permit to undocumented people that also complies with the Real ID act, a federal law that takes effect in October 2019. “We did everything that was required. They have no excuse for not having passed it.”

The bill, like raising minimum wage to $15 per hour and legalizing marijuana for recreational use, fell victim to the quarrel between Gov. Phil Murphy and the two leaders of the State Legislature, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

(…) Although the three politicians are Democrats and say they share a progressive vision for the state, internal power struggles have paralyzed the passage of laws that would fulfill the main promises made by Gov. Murphy during his campaign.

Still, in Calle’s opinion, Democrats have no choice but to approve the driver’s license bill. “The last election demonstrated to politicians that being anti-immigrant in New Jersey does not work in their favor (…) Over 500,000 people need this law passed in the state. Other states with a smaller undocumented population have approved similar laws. It is time for New Jersey to do the right thing.”

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