Ready, Set, Greenlight Campaign For Driver’s Licenses For All New Yorkers

April 18th, 2018

Affected immigrants + advocates + elected officials rev up NYS Assembly bill

ALBANY, NY – On Wednesday, April 18th, the Green Light NY coalition rallied at the state Capitol, calling on the Assembly to pass the Driver License Access and Privacy Act (A.10273), giving the green light for all New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants, to apply for driver’s licenses. Currently, 12 states and Washington D.C. allow residents to apply for driver’s licenses, regardless of immigration status.

“Our legislature needs to pass Assemblymember Crespo’s landmark bill to allow all New Yorkers to move safely– on our roads and in their lives. When this bill is enacted, it will be a major step for New York’s immigrants, who will be able to drive to and from work, open bank accounts, sign up for car insurance, and feel less afraid when reporting crime. We look forward to working with our state and the Governor on the road ahead,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Introduced by Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the Driver License Access and Privacy Act would bring in an estimated $57 million in annual state and county revenue in registration fees, sales taxes, and gas taxes; plus $26 million in one-time revenues as more people obtain licenses, buy cars, and register vehicles.

It would also be a boon for public transportation, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) receiving an additional $8.6 million in annual revenue from New York City, Long Island, and Lower Hudson surcharges to car registration, gas tax, and sales tax, as well as $2.2 million in one-time revenue from the driver’s licenses surcharge.

Existing drivers will also enjoy a cost savings of $17 per year on their auto insurances, as more drivers sign up for policies.

Upstate small businesses and farms that rely on immigrant labor would also benefit. About 20% of New York State's land area is farmland with nearly 36,000 family farms. According to Farm Credit East, without undocumented and migrant farmworkers, New York agricultural production would likely be reduced by more than $1.37 billion or 24 percent of the value of the state’s agricultural output.

“New York must do what 12 other states and the District of Columbia have done! That is to allow undocumented immigrants access a driver’s license, to bring them out of the shadows, to allow them a legal avenue to obtaining auto insurance and to open bank accounts to secure their hard earned wages. It is past time that this issue is resolved for the benefit of all New Yorkers,” stated Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.

“Granting driver’s licenses to immigrants throughout New York is a forward-looking idea that would empower and protect all New Yorkers. At a time when backward immigration policies continue to pour out of Washington, New York has a chance to lead the nation, protect vulnerable communities, and make a statement about who we are - and who we always will be. This bill would bring immigrants out of the shadows, make our streets and roadways safer for everyone, and add over $10 million in new revenue – more than enough to cover the cost of this commonsense policy change. At this moment, we need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our immigrant neighbors, and this bill demonstrates our commitment to doing just that,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“We always have fear to drive to work, or to drive to school with our kids. We always have the fear. That’s why I am fighting for all New Yorkers to gain driver’s licenses. We should all be treated equally. We should have the same rights and benefits no matter the language you speak, the color of your skin, or the country where you are from. We all have the same rights as human beings,” said Victor, Member of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson.

“The power of freedom of movement is a necessity and not a privilege, we all have to move freely without fear. Driver’s license is not a luxury that we want, it is something that allows us to live a life without fear,” said Luis, Member of Alianza Agricola.

“This is an equal access issue that cuts across lines. It is important to the college student, to the restaurant worker, to the farmworkers in western New York, to the drivers who all share one road. Restaurants, farms, construction, education, business, civic and faith groups- they all require movement. Now is the time for New York to move. Western New York only stands to benefit, in every way,” said Jennifer Connor, Organizer from Justice for Migrant Families Western New York.

"The members of the Workers' Center of CNY have been working in Upstate NY to educate the community about the needs for this legislation. The Driver License Access and Privacy Act, will bring safety, peace of mind, and dignity as our members would be able to drive to and from their places of employment, without the overwhelming risk of losing their economic security due to detainment,” said Kayla Kelechian, Organizer at the Workers’ Center of Central New York.

“It is unthinkable that, in 2018, immigrants in New York State should have to worry about a routine traffic stop resulting in deportation. Denying driver's license access to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers benefits no one. It is in everyone's interest to ensure that all drivers in our state are licensed, registered, and insured. For immigrants in rural communities, a driver's license is especially critical for accessing basic services and medical care, commuting to and from work, and everyday necessities such as grocery shopping. It's past time for New York lawmakers to address this issue,” said Lewis O. Papenfuse, Executive Director of The Worker Justice Center of New York.

“This is a human rights issues, but more than that, this is a pragmatic solution that benefits everyone. Granting driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of citizenship status, improves public safety on our roads and makes our communities safer. Driving is often essential to holding a job, going to school, and providing basic necessities such as food and medical care. With the ability to drive safely and legally, undocumented families can live more visibly in society, facilitating productive integration into the fabric of our economy. This is a common sense policy that will raise revenue and increase economic development. CVH will always stand with immigrants, and we urge the legislature to pass this legislation,” said Afua Atta-Mensah, Esq., Executive Director of Community Voices Heard.

“On Long Island, there is a lack of public transportation. It takes hours to get anywhere by bus, and the train is too expensive. We need licenses for all, because driving and having a car in Long Island is a necessity. Having a driver’s license would mean I could go to the store, take my children to their doctor’s appointments, drive them to school, and actively participate in my community. Driving without a license would put me in danger of being picked up and at risk of being deported and separated from my family," said Jorge Garcia, Member of Make the Road New York.