Expanding Eligibility for Driver's Licenses and State Identifications to More Qualified Residents
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants are estimated to live in New Jersey. These immigrants make critical contributions to our state, including an estimated $476 million in state and local taxes per year, but often live in fear and face barriers to meeting their families’ basic needs because they lack driver’s licenses and/or government-issued ID.
In New Jersey, driving is a necessity of life, but for immigrant families, driving to work or to dropping one’s children at school can lead to deportation. Permitting all New Jerseyans who are qualified and eligible to drive—regardless of immigration status— to apply for driver’s licenses would make New Jersey’s roads and highways safer, strengthen our economy and increase the wellbeing of our families. According to a New Jersey Police Perspective’s report, there would be $245 million in new insurance payments and an expanded pool of insured drivers, which help hold premium payments down for everyone. In the first three years, the state would collect between $5.2 million and $9.5 million in license and permit fees and upwards of $7 million in new registration fees.
New Jersey has the third largest percentage of immigrants in the nation, yet it lags behind the 12 states and Washington, D.C., which currently permit undocumented immigrant residents to apply for driver’s licenses. According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, about 464,000 of New Jersey’s estimated 525,000 undocumented residents stand to benefit from a change in the state’s policy on driver licenses. New Jersey must join the ranks of these states and provide eligibility for driver's licenses for all qualified drivers. Resolutions in support of expanding access to driver's licenses have already passed in many municipalities across New Jersey.
Undocumented New Jerseyans face barriers to accessing government –issued ID to present to the police, open bank accounts, enter their children’s schools, or report a crime. State identification cards currently requires the same documentation as driver’s licenses, limiting many people, immigrants and non-immigrants, from obtaining a government issued identification. A diverse number of New Jersey municipalities, including Elizabeth, Newark, Roselle, Dover, Perth Amboy, Paterson, Union City, and Plainfield have established successful and popular municipal ID programs, —in fact, New Jersey has the most municipal ID programs of any state in the country, an indicator of the need for this to be addressed at the state level.
NJAIJ urges our state legislature to expand access to driver’s licenses and state identification card to all qualified residents, regardless of immigration status, and to implement strong privacy protections of cardholders’ personal information. This measure will increase public safety by making our roads safer and strengthen community engagement by providing residents with the ability to interact with state and local law enforcement.
Find out more about the Let's Drive NJ campaign here.