It’s a Fact: Access to Drivers Licenses Will Make NY Safer and Economically Stronger

May 11th, 2019

Immigrant Advocates & Allies Respond to Smear Campaign Against Access to Driver’s Licenses

NEW YORK, NYImmigrant advocates, members of the Green Light coalition and allies today protested a right-wing, anti-immigrant event held in Liverpool by the state Conservative Party in opposition to granting undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses.

As momentum continues to build toward passage of legislation that would allow all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, to apply for New York State driver’s licenses, it’s not surprising to see the reactionary Conservative Party ramp up its fear and smear machine with a misinformation campaign intended to undermine education efforts and divide New Yorkers.

"This is the same state Conservative Party that wholly backs Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant policies," said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "Fortunately, the majority of New Yorkers reject the Trump - Conservative Party agenda, and will not be dissuaded by this disinformation campaign based in hate and ignorance of the facts.”

Choi added, “The experience in other states shows that allowing undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses would make the roads safer for everyone as all drivers would need to pass the same tests to get a license. And studies show that in states where undocumented immigrants have access to driver’s licenses, there has been a reduction in traffic fatalities and the number of uninsured cars on the road.”

In addition to making roads safer, it would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to get to their jobs, medical appointments and drive their children to school, which is particularly important upstate where there is a dearth of mass transit options.

A recent Global Strategy Group poll shows that once the public is educated about the issue, support for granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants grows to 63%.

The fact is that until an executive order under Governor Pataki stripped all New Yorkers of the right to apply for driver's licenses, undocumented immigrants were not excluded from driving. In restoring that right, New York would be joining 12 other states, including California and Utah, that already allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive.

“With Assembly Speaker Heastie committing to a vote on the Green Light NY legislation before the end of the legislative session, it's now up to the Senate Democrats to do their part in the fight against the angry and divisive rhetoric of Trump and his allies like the state Conservative Party,” Choi said.

As the Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple expressed in his letter of support for the Green Light NY bill: "With the ability to access proper and legal state-issued identification, witnesses and victims of crimes will more readily report and cooperate with police. Law enforcement will be able to use licenses to verify the identity of motorists during stops and review traffic records.  Other first responders and healthcare providers will be able to identify the individuals they assist."

“Driver’s licenses is more than an ID for us immigrants, it is something that can allow us to access a vehicle under the law. We need transportation to go to work, to buy our groceries,  to go to the hospital, and to bring our kids to school or to a picnic so they will not feel isolated. Paying for private transportation is very expensive, we don’t make enough to cover that. We want to use our money to buy a vehicle, and to buy insurance like the law requires us to. We want to have a driver’s license so we can keep making an economic contribution to NYS. If we can restore the right to have driver’s licenses for all, we can make it roads safer for all as well,” said Carlos, directly affected individual and Member of the Greenlight NY Coalition.

“Full access to driver’s licenses in NY is a good policy for the state, it will make our roads safer for everyone. Contrary to anti-Immigrant rhetoric, drivers licenses does not automatically give you the right to vote.  Expanding access to driver’s licenses would not interfere with the ability of local law enforcement to do their job. Also, research shows that it could bring millions of dollars to the state,“ said Rebecca Fuentes, Workers Center of Central NY.

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