Westchester Leaders + Law Enforcement: ‘Expand Driver’s Licenses for All New Yorkers’

County Executive George Latimer, State Senator Shelley Mayer, and immigrant advocates hold community forum

WESTCHESTER, NY - Monday, December 3rd, members of the Green Light NY campaign, including the New York Immigration Coalition, Immigrant Action, Neighbors Link, and Indivisible Westchester, held a community forum with State Senator Shelley Mayer in support of legislation to expand access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.

Top Westchester elected officials and law enforcement gave supporting remarks, including bill co-sponsors State Senator Shelley Mayer and Assemblymember Steven Otis, as well as County Executive George Latimer, Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, Ossining Police Chief Kevin Sylvester, and Ossining Mayor Victoria Gearity.

Earlier in the day, the New York Immigration Coalition joined fellow Green Light NY Steering Committee members Make the Road New York and the Minkwon Center for Community Action, at City Hall in New York City to demand the state legislature prioritize expanding access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.

States that have already passed legislation to expand access to driver’s licenses include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Vermont, Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. New Jersey is considering expanding driver’s licenses to all this year, Oregon in 2019. Wisconsin is currently ramping up their efforts to expand driver’s license access as well.

Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, issued the following statement:

"New York needs to catch up with the twelve other states that have already expanded access to driver's licenses. Access to driver's licenses is especially important for suburban counties like Westchester, where 73% of undocumented workers in Westchester are employed and need to drive for work, or to take their kids to school, or to simply buy groceries. This is common sense legislation that's good for the economy, for employers, and for all New Yorkers. We encourage our state legislators to join County Executive George Latimer and Senator Mayer in supporting the bill.”

“I fully support offering driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers, and I applaud State Senator Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Steven Otis for their support and hard work on this legislation to expand access regardless of immigration status. This is about safety, about keeping our roads safe and those who travel on them protected.  This is common sense legislation we can all support,” said George Latimer, Westchester County Executive.

“Making limited driver’s licenses available for all eligible New York residents is a common sense measure to enhance public safety and allow immigrant workers to safely commute to work, bring children to school, and do their grocery shopping. When all drivers are licensed, authorities and others on the road are assured that the person is more likely to be insured, their car inspected and registered, and they know the rules of the road. This solution has been quite successful in other states, leading to reductions in hit-and-runs and drivers without insurance,” said State Senator Shelley B. Mayer (D-Westchester). “I thank the coalition of groups who organized this discussion with police commissioners, my colleagues in government, and leaders in Westchester County.”

"We need the Green Light legislation passed to make our roads safer. We need all drivers to be properly trained, licensed and insured. I am hopeful we will have two house agreement on this issue in 2019,” said Assemblyman Steve Otis (91st AD).

“I am in support of legislative initiatives that would grant limited access drivers licenses to residents of New York State, regardless of their immigration status. Ossining, like many communities in this area, is home to a large immigrant population. As our neighbors struggle to gain citizenship, they are subsequently unable to obtain licenses to drive. This has become a public safety issue and I believe that intelligent legislation will help make our roads safer and allow our officers to better protect the community,” said Kevin Sylvester, Ossining Police Chief.

“This initiative is a tangible way to improve the economic stability of our undocumented residents, while making roadways safer for everyone. A resounding statement from Westchester leaders will help the governor and the new legislature stand strong in their support of this important law,” said Victoria Gearity, Mayor, Village of Ossining.

Catherine Parker, Majority Leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators stated her strong support for legislation to allow non-citizens to get New York State drivers licenses. “I applaud New York Immigration Coalition and colleagues in the New York state legislature, specifically Senator Shelley Meyer and Assembly Member Steve Otis, who have sponsored this bill to restore the ability of all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status to attain drivers licenses. Public safety must be paramount, and we know this will keep everyone safer on our roads.”

“Driver’s licenses for All New Yorkers is a major step  toward integrating immigrants into our community. It makes clear economic sense and ensures that our roads remain safe,” said Carola Otero Bracco, Executive Director of Neighbors Link.

"It is in the best interest of all New Yorkers that New York State follow the lead of 12 other states and pass legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to practice for and pass the test for driver’s licenses. Denying licenses to people without papers is to put ideology above public safety and cruelty above compassion,” said Shannon Powell, Co-Founder of Indivisible Westchester.

“We need to respect and acknowledge the undocumented immigrants that uphold our economy and lifestyles. Without the presence of the immigrants that come to the United States to share their labor, culture, and love with us, they give life to America. So we need to respect them and love them and our voting habits have to reflect that,” said Kevin Duarte Chon, Organizer at the Community Resource Center of New York.

Background

There are approximately 61,000 undocumented residents in Westchester County, of whom 73% are employed.

Expanding driver’s license access 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.

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.

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