Undocumented Immigrants are Granted the Right to Obtain Driver’s Licenses in New York State

On June 17, the Senate passed legislation granting undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a driver’s license in New York State, marking one of the most drastic changes to New York immigration policy in recent memory.

The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act (Green Light NY), S.1747B, will allow non-commercial driver’s license or learner’s permit applicants to submit additional proofs of identity to be eligible for a non-Federal license. Also, with the passing of this legislation, the applicant may now sign an affidavit stating he or she has not been issued a social security number–as long as he or she provides the DMV with discretion to approve additional proofs of identity and age. The legislation will also protect the applicant’s data from unwarranted release. 

In what reversed a nearly 20-year decision to prohibit undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses, the decision was not met without backlash. Many Senate Republicans denounced the decision, such as Senator James Tedisco, who said, “If we give them every right they have, they will not be incentivized to go through the process of getting that greatest gift, to be a citizen.”

Senator Frederick J. Akshar is quoted as saying the passing of this legislation is “only continuing this state’s trend toward favoring criminals over law-abiding citizens.”

However, many Senate Democrats offered sharp rebuttals, such as the bill’s sponsor, Senator Luis Sepúlveda, who said this in his statement last Monday: “This legislation will not only provide undocumented immigrants with a legal solution to obtain a driver’s license, but its positive impacts will include significant economic growth, improved road safety, and keeping hardworking families together. Millions of dollars will be raised in revenue, auto insurance premiums will decrease, and local economies will see a boom as earnings and spending increase. In a time when immigrants are being scapegoated for every ill in our country, this is our opportunity for New York State to show our courage and strength, and stand up for the marginalized communities. For economic, safety, and moral reasons, our communities deserve the Green Light Bill.”

Statewide, the Fiscal Policy Institute predicts this legislation will result in $83.9 million in government revenues over the first three years. The Fiscal Policy Institute also predicts there will be an additional $6.4 million in recurring revenue thereafter.

Of the legislation passing, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “Today, we passed legislation restoring the right for all qualified drivers to obtain drivers’ licenses regardless of immigration status. By passing this needed legislation, we are growing our economy while at the same time making our roads safer. This is the right step forward for New York State as we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level.”

The legislation was passed by a narrow margin of 33 to 29.

 

Contact our firm

If you are an undocumented immigrant and believe you qualify to obtain a driver’s license, then you must consult with an experienced attorney today. This new legislation may have opened up an opportunity for you to do so.

The Law Offices of Cheryl R. David practices immigration law throughout NYC. If you have questions about your particular matters regarding immigration please contact the office to discuss your circumstances and options.