Jersey City, Largest Immigrant Municipality in New Jersey, Approves Resolution Supporting State Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants

Jersey City Council passed the resolution with a unanimous vote. Jersey City is the eighth municipality to pass a resolution urging the state legislature and governor to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants.

For Immediate Release

May 28, 2015

Contact: Johanna Calle, NJAIJ Program Coordinator, 973-474-9850 (office) and 201-580-3060 (cell)

Jersey City– The city with the largest immigrant population in the state of New Jersey, with over 40% foreign born residents, has approved a resolution urging the state government to enact legislation allowing the Motor Vehicle Commission to issue driver’s licenses to individuals who cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the United States. The Jersey City Municipal Council voted on a resolution introduced by Council President Lavarro by a unanimous vote, making Jersey City the eighth city to pass this type of measure, following Camden, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Plainfield, Dover, and Bridgeton.

Advocates across the state have been working with local communities to urge their mayors, municipalities and counties to pass resolutions in support the state legislation that would benefit around 464,000 people in the state. The legislation would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses for the purposes of driving in the state, if they pass driving and identity tests. According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, in their report Share the Road, this type of policy would create a revenue of 5 million dollars in licensing fees and it would lower insurance premiums to all residents of the state by creating 209 million dollars in insurance premium revenue.

“These immigrants are our parents, siblings, neighbors and friends who need to get to work and support their families like everyone else in New Jersey,” said Chia-Chia Wang, Organizing and Advocacy Director, American Friends Service Committee. “Driver’s license is a basic and necessary state level policy that only increases public safety and benefit economy and working families.”

Many undocumented immigrants are driving without a license, which many do to go to work or to take their children to school. In many parts of New Jersey it is necessary to travel by car rather than public transportation.

“Based on a survey conducted in April of this year, 9 out of 10 Filipinos in Jersey City agree with allowing undocumented immigrants the privilege to drive. According to our constituents, taking public transportation would take them two to three hours to reach their work places compared to 20 to 30 minutes by driving, “ said Hanalei Ramos, organizer, Filipino Immigrants & Workers Organizing Project.

This policy will also provide some relief to immigrants who are afraid of being deported due to interactions with law enforcement. It also would lower the amount of unlicensed drivers on the roads, therefore making them safer for everyone.

“Caretakers, family members of undocumented families risk their lives to come to the United States to have a better future for their children,” said Monica Calderon, Director at Action 21. “Oftentimes, and in order to survive, fathers and mothers continue to risk their well-being by driving without a licenses/insurance to their jobs, or by walking on highways, where they compromise the safety, not only their own, but also the rest of the population.”

The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice launched a campaign in March, New Jersey For All, which aims to advance policies that address the need for expanded access to driver’s licenses, the lack of government-issued identification in the immigrant community, wage theft, and the separation of immigrant families. The Alliance views the passing of this resolution to be another great step in the growing momentum from immigrant communities organizing to make New Jersey a more immigrant-friendly state.