BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
As Congress debates comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) has proposed a bill that would give undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses.
“A driver’s license will provide undocumented immigrants much more employment flexibility,” Peralta said. “In moving out of the shadows and into the economic mainstream, they will be less isolated and less vulnerable to predators and their scams.”
If elected mayor, Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio said he plans to bring New Yorkers out of the shadows by working for legislation that would make New York the fifth state to allow undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses.
According to de Blasio, this legislation would allow roadway safety by getting undocumented people who are already driving on our streets into driver’s education classes, covered by auto insurance, operating registered, driving inspected and insured vehicles.
Peralta assures that licenses would not be given out to anyone; only people who can prove who they are through a non-U.S. form of identification, prove residence in the States and demonstrate they have not been convicted of a crime.
In introducing the bill, Peralta noted that unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes and that uninsured drivers are far more likely to flee the scene of an accident. He added that undocumented immigrants are disproportionately victims of exploitation and fraud.
The next step Peralta said is to build support for the bill, both within the legislature and out.
Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda (D-Bronx) said he supports the bill because it is well thought-out.
“A large portion of undocumented immigrants unfortunately are driving without a license and/or insurance, who possess vehicular risks to themselves and other drivers,” Sepulveda said.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said he supports Peralta’s initiative because it allows undocumented immigrants to find and keep a job. He said the bill would ensure that undocumented immigrants would still have to go through the same test that would help them attain a proper form of identification.
Javier Valdes, executive director of Make the Road New York, said the “moment is right.”
“New York should not be lagging, it should be leading,” he said.
Valdes agrees with de Blasio’s notion that attaining a driver’s license would help immigrants assimilate into the New York civic life.
“It would help the integration of people,” Valdes said.
If the legislation passes, Valdes said undocumented immigrants should not be afraid to reveal their immigration status because “they are strong safe guards that the state won’t share information with the federal government.”
So far, 11 states have allowed undocumented immigrants to secure a driver’s license.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.