Advocates & County Officials Rally at Senate Leadership’s Offices to Demand Driver’s Licenses For All Immigrants

Immigrant Advocates, County Officials and Community Members Rallied at the Offices of State Senators Andrea Stewart-Cousins & Mike Gianaris to Call for the Passage of the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act

NEW YORK, NY ‒ With the New York State Assembly ready to act to restore the right to a driver’s license for all immigrants, all eyes now turn to the Senate to follow suit.

Today, immigrant advocates and community members from Center for Community ActionCommunity Resource CenterDesis Rising Up and MovingGreen Light NYNeighbors LinkNYCD16 IndivisibleMinKwonNew York Immigration CoalitionThe Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans, and The Workmen’s Circle rallied at the district offices of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris for Green Light New York Day of Action. Activists demanded the two leaders do the right thing by bringing the driver’s licenses bill to the Senate floor for a vote before the end of the legislative session in June.

Activists told Senate leadership that this year New York needs to join the 12 other states, Puerto Rico, and D.C. that already allow undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses.

Undocumented immigrants in New York long had the right to a driver’s license as long as they passed the same tests as everyone else. Restoring that right would help those families get around, improve the state’s economy, and promote better road safety.

“Across New York, there is broad support for restoring access to driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers—our law enforcement and union leaders, business owners, and community members see the commonsense value of guaranteeing that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to be licensed and insured. We know that passing Green Light legislation will add millions of dollars to our local economy, make our roads safer, and protect immigrant families. Now, it is up to State Senate Leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Mike Gianaris to ensure the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers by immediately passing the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

"It is time for New York to reinstate driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers. This legislation will require all drivers to receive driver education, be informed of our laws, be tested, and obtain insurance. This will certainly result in improved road safety.  The proposed limited use driver’s license will give community members more confidence when accessing law enforcement and when they are victims or witnesses of a crime. The result will be improved public safety and quality of life for all our neighbors," said Carola Otero Bracco, Executive Director of Neighbors Link.

"Yonkers Sanctuary Movement supports the Green Light Bill. It's time to make our roads safer for all New Yorkers to get to work and school without fear," said Gina Caputo with Yonkers Sanctuary Movement.

The Westchester Women's Agenda supports Green Light legislation and urges its passage now. As an organization advocating on behalf of women and children in Westchester County, we know the importance of driver's licenses for families in Westchester, for parents who need to drive their children to school or daycare, to doctor's appointments, to the grocery store or after school activities. This legislation is critical to ensure public safety and strengthen family well-being for the people of Westchester and NY state," said Noelle Damico Co-Chair, Westchester Women's Agenda.

“Drivers licenses for all, regardless of immigration status, would not only help immigrant families like the ones we serve at CIANA better integrate into their local communities, but would also ensure greater safety in our communities overall and would keep families together. Integration is the cornerstone to everything we do in serving the whole family at our organization, which is why we support Green Light NY,” said Maria Eliades, Director of Development and Communications, Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans (CIANA).

“For many New Yorkers driving is a necessity; commuting to and from work or grocery shopping require driving. Giving the ‘Green Light’ to thousands of New Yorkers will make our roads safer, insuring that those already on the road will know the law and not feel threatened while doing everyday tasks,” said County Legislator Christopher A. Johnson, representing Yonkers.

"The WESPAC Community strongly supports driver's licenses for our estimated 725,000 undocumented neighbors in New York State who represent around 5% of our labor force according to the Pew Research Center. Our undocumented neighbors pay approximately $1.1 billion in state and local taxes each year (the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy).  Almost 250,000 live outside NYC where people need cars to get to work, school, shops and doctors appointments. New York State needs to implement drivers licenses now for all New Yorkers for the dignity and safety of all of us," said Nada Khader, WESPAC Foundation Director.

"We're not asking for special treatment, we're asking for undocumented people to be able to earn their license like everyone else. Undocumented families should be able to take their kids to school and the doctor without fearing that their family could be separated and deported," said Diana Lopez, Organizer for Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson.

"The wait for the right to driver’s licenses is long overdue. This is why we applaud Senator Stewart-Cousins’s grassroots support of Green Light New York’s bill. The truth is too many communities across New York state rely on driving for basic needs. Local advocates have seen the increase in family separation due to the lack of driver’s licenses for immigrant community members. The Green Light bill makes sense, it alleviates public safety concerns, and it brings New York millions of dollars in annual revenue. This is commonsense legislation, and it needs to pass now. We thank Senator Stewart-Cousins for her leadership!" said Jirandy Martinez, Executive Director for Community Resource Center 

“I fully support the goal of the Green Light NY Driving Together Coalition and am looking forward to our state representatives passing this legislation which will provide equal access to driver’s licenses for all residents of our great state. We should remember that prior to 2002, all New Yorkers were able to obtain a drivers’ license, regardless of immigration status. This change resulted in more than 1,500,000 New York drivers losing their license. Not only do I support the legislation on principle, but it will generate millions of dollars in revenue for New York from license and registration fees. It will also lead to lower auto insurance premiums for all New Yorkers since as more drivers obtain insurance, the number of accidents involving uninsured motorists will decline,” said Westchester County Legislator Majority Leader Catherine Parker.

“It’s imperative that our streets be as safe as possible. Giving residents the opportunity to have a driver’s license helps ensure that only qualified drivers are on the road and allows people to travel without fear. It’s time to pass this legislation now,” said Shannon Powell, Westchester Indivisible.

"The lack of licenses can pose a safety threat in so many ways. Thankfully I am now a U.S. citizen, but when I first came to this country 30 years ago, I once had to take my newborn to the hospital in the middle of the night walking for 15 blocks in the cold of winter because I could not drive legally. I and my fellow union members are looking forward to the Assembly and Senate advancing much-needed legislation that will unchain licenses from immigration status this year,” said Maria Ramirez, member of 32BJ SEIU in the Hudson Valley.

“Nuestra comunidad inmigrante es atacada todos los días, hermanos inmigrantes trabajadores necesitan tranquilidad y confianza para poder movilizarse a sus trabajos y hacer una vida normal, libre de miedos, de temores y angustias. Por ello urge el que sea aprobada la ley de acceso a licencias de conducir para hermanos inmigrantes documentados en el estado de Nueva York el momento es ahora, la angustia, los temores no pueden esperar,” said Luis Yumbla, Hudson Valley Community Coalition.

Background

The benefits of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants is supported by the data. Stanford University research showed that hit-and-run rates dropped after California enacted the law. The Albuquerque Journal published findings that in New Mexico the rates of uninsured vehicles decreased by almost 25% after the law passed. Finally, the Fiscal Policy Institute found New York state would gain $57 million annually from taxes and fees if the law passes.

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