Immigrant Advocates Call on Gov. Cuomo to Take Action on Driver’s Licenses
ROCHESTER, NY– Last night, an East Bethany community leader was pulled over by Attica police, and handed over to Border Patrol for not having a valid driver’s license. He is now being held at Batavia Detention Center, facing deportation and separation from his three-year-old daughter.
The individual is a prominent organizer with Alianza Agricola and part of the statewide campaign to expand access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. He is originally from Guatemala, and has been living in the United States with family for a decade. At the time he was pulled over, he was on his way to celebrate his daughter’s 3rd birthday.
“Immigration enforcement is literally ripping parents out of their cars and separating families on our roads. If our community member had a driver’s license, he would be home with his daughter celebrating her birthday, instead of sitting in a jail cell. Governor Andrew Cuomo must oppose Trump’s family separation policies and sign an executive order now to protect all of New York’s 4.4 million immigrants,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
“I only want to see my husband. Our daughter misses her daddy, she is crying because she hasn’t seen him. She doesn’t understand what is happening. She doesn’t know where he went. She thinks her father went to the store to go buy her birthday cake. So she keeps asking why he isn’t back yet?” said the community member’s wife.
“Today I want to raise my voice on behalf of all workers who are in the shadows and not recognized despite our role as the backbone of agriculture in New York. I want to ask Governor Cuomo, who so many times has said that he wants to protect the immigrants, that at this moment establish state policies that are just and that protect the immigrant. We are angry and feel betrayed by him because he has done nothing to help keep our families together. It is not fair that we are working to bring food to the table for all the New Yorkers and then are targeted because our skin is a different color or we speak a different language. I ask that you recognize our rights and make this state, a state of immigrants where the statue of liberty is, a place where we are granted the same freedoms as other,” said Luis Jimenez, Alianza Agricola member.
“Yesterday an outstanding father, dairy worker, and community leader was separated from his family for driving without a license. That same day, New York celebrated the 14 billion dollar a year dairy industry at the state fair. Governor Cuomo has supported the dairy industry over and over again, while turning his back on its workers by not investing in their safety and taking action on drivers licenses,” said Carly Fox of the Workers Justice Center of New York.
Expanding access to driver’s licenses would allow families to drive safely and move with security on the road. Having a valid driver’s license and form of identification would significantly decrease the chances of immigrant residents being turned over to Border Patrol when pulled over by police, and stop families from being separated.
Driver’s licenses 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 farm workers, 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.