Road Safety Champions Rev Up Support For Immigrant Drivers

May 14th, 2018

Saugerties Police Chief comes out for Driver’s License Access Bill
+ Sen. Sepúlveda signs on as Senate sponsor

ALBANY, NY - Today, Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra and suburban New York lawmakers called on the Assembly to pass legislation expanding access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers (A.10273). Newly elected Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda has introduced a same as bill in the Senate (S.8680).

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

“This bill would allow drivers from Saugerties to Sag Harbour to move safely and securely on our roads, while lowering the cost of car insurance and raising millions in revenue. It’s just good common sense and an economic boon for the state. Now we need Governor Cuomo and our legislative leaders to drive this forward,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“As a police Chief, my number one concern is safety: safety for both our community and the men and women who serve our communities. Providing an opportunity for all individuals in New York State to obtain a limited purpose driver’s license is paramount to the mission of public safety. These individuals will be less likely to run from police during a routine vehicle and traffic stop and will reduce the likelihood of police pursuits that usually end tragically. We must also look at the number of uninsured motorist and unlicensed drivers: when they are involved in accidents and must file claims, it currently increases insurance rates unfairly for those who are properly licensed and insured. I support this legislation and encourage our elected officials to do the same in both the Assembly and the Senate,” said Joseph A. Sinagra, MPA, Chief of Police Saugerties Police Department.

“Providing every New Yorker with the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license is just common sense from an economic and public safety perspective. On eastern Long Island a driver’s license is critical to economic self-sufficiency. Further, we are all safer on the road knowing our fellow drivers are properly licensed,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

"Driving is a fundamental part of daily life, this isn't only an issue about immigration it's about the safety of all New Yorkers. People deserve a sense of safety on their daily commutes. Driver's licenses would allow people to be insured which is a benefit to other drivers on the road, being pulled over for a traffic violation one can be properly identified. Driving is also an essential part of the economy to be able to commute to and from work and seek more job opportunities,” said Kayla Kelechian, organizer with the WCCNY.

"It is very important for us to have a driver's license. We have to go buy food and go to the doctors. Driver’s licences can help stop separating families, we want and deserve to be safe in the state where we live,” said Crispin Hernandez, Organizer with the WCCNY and Consejo member.

“Undocumented immigrants upstate are forced to take the risk of driving without a license every day. Driver’s licenses will make it easier for immigrants to pick up prescriptions, get their children to school, and go to work,” said Ignacio Acevedo, Lead Organizer at Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. “Equal access to driver’s licenses will also benefit all New Yorkers by growing the economy, lowering insurance costs, and increasing road safety.”

“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 WNY.

“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 NY.

“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.

“There is enormous urgency for all New Yorkers to have access to driver’s licenses. I remember during Hurricane Sandy there was no public transportation for the people of Staten Island. My neighbor’s son was extremely sick, and he came over asking me to please drive him to the nearest hospital. With no public transportation available, our only option was to drive. I had to drive without a license, putting me at risk of being stopped and detained, but I needed to help my neighbor and his son,” said Manuel Martinez, member of Make the Road New York.

“The power of freedom of movement is a necessity and not a privilege, we all have to move freely without fear. Drivers licence 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 bill will allow all New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants, to drive legally, open bank accounts for financial security, and feel more secure reporting crimes to law enforcement who ask for identification.

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.

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.