OP-ED: Time For Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants

BY STATE SENATOR JOSE PERALTA

I recently introduced legislation to provide undocumented immigrant New Yorkers access to driver’s licenses. If enacted, the bill will bring the undocumented into the economic mainstream and make New York’s roads safer. It will also generate millions of dollars in revenue for the State from license and registration fees. It also could lead to lower auto insurance premiums. In Illinois, for example, it is estimated that auto insurance rates for individual drivers will decline by $60 a year.

A driver’s license would open the door to more employment opportunities for undocumented immigrants. They would be able to make more money to support their families. Once in the economic mainstream, they would be less vulnerable to exploitation and fraud. By ensuring that everyone driving on our roads is properly credentialed, educated and is operating a registered, inspected and insured vehicle, this law would improve safety on our roads. Unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.  Uninsured drivers also are more likely to flee the scene of an accident.

My bill will permit the New York State Dept. of Motor Vehicles to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants able to provide non-U.S. identification, prove residence in the State and demonstrate they have not been convicted of a felony crime.

The driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants would be for driving privileges only and could NOT be used as evidence of immigration status.

As for my bill becoming law in New York, it will take a lot of work. But keep in mind this isn’t exactly ground-breaking legislation. There are already 11 states where this is the law and no one would argue that any of them are more progressive than New York.

And during the recent mayoral campaign, not only did Democrat Bill de Blasio call for passage of my bill, so did the Republican candidate, Joe Lhota.

The next step is to build support for the bill, both within the legislature and out. Advocates such as Make the Road New York will be important allies.

As the senate sponsor of the state DREAM Act, I look forward to the development during the upcoming legislative session of a bipartisan response to the question of integrating New Americans and giving them a chance to succeed and realize the American Dream.