Union County Freeholders Become First County in New Jersey to Pass Resolution in Support of Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants in Unanimous Vote

Union County Freeholders passed a resolution urging the state legislature and governor to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants

For Immediate Release

May 29, 2015

Contact: Sara Cullinane, Make the Road New Jersey, 908-768-4991. Carlos Rojas, Faith in New Jersey, 732-372-1487.

Elizabeth – Last night Union County become the first county in New Jersey to pass 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 Board of Freeholders voted on a resolution introduced by Freeholder Chairman Mohammed Jalloh by a unanimous vote. Similar resolutions have already been passed in Camden, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Plainfield, Dover, and Bridgeton.

"Trying to work and raise a family in New Jersey without a driver's license is next to impossible. Giving immigrants access to licenses will make our streets safer, our economy stronger and keep our families together. As a resident of Union County, I thank the Freeholders for their historic vote in support of Drivers Licenses for all.” said Luis Villa, member of Make the Road New Jersey and resident of Elizabeth, NJ.

The legislation would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses for the purposes of driving in the state, after being properly tested and insured. It would 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.

 “I came to the United States over 21 years ago back in 1993. I have been married for 10 years and I have two children. March of last year, while driving back home from a family gathering, I was pulled over by a police officer on McArthur Highway in Newark.  I was driving without a license because as an undocumented immigrant I am not able to show proof for the 6-point system in NJ,” said Hoover Rodriguez, member of Faith in New Jersey. “The police officer detained me and took me to the police department. I was taken into custody originally because of unpaid traffic tickets and then I was transferred by Immigration Customs Enforcement agents to the Elizabeth Detention Center. I have court dates coming up where an immigration judge will decide whether I am allowed to stay in the United States or if I am forced to return to Ecuador away from my wife and my kids.”

Union County advocates have been organizing community members around issues that are affecting municipalities in the county. Members and partners of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice held a public event earlier this month, gathering over 200 people in support of immigrant friendly policies. Resolutions like this one show the community’s support for state legislation that would benefit around 464,000 people in New Jersey. 

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 a historic vote that other counties in the state should follow and it is a sign of the momentum from immigrant communities organizing to make New Jersey a more immigrant-friendly state.