New Jersey Advocates Applaud the Approval of the Driver’s License Legislation in the Assembly’s Homeland Security Committee

The important vote took place as hundreds marched to Trenton State House in Support of the Bill Introduced by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano  

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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

Marlene Peralta, 646.601.4267

Trenton, NJ. – Hundreds of immigrant advocates, local residents, faith and business leaders gathered outside Trenton State House on Monday to celebrate the historic approval of the driver’s license legislation in the Assembly’s homeland security committee.

The Committee voted 3 to 2 in favor of the bill introduced by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, which would expand driver’s licenses access to hard-working undocumented immigrants in New Jersey.

The historic approval took place as hundreds marched to Trenton State House in support of the legislation. The Homeland Security Committee is the first of four committees to vote on this important legislation.

“Today’s vote is a very important victory. Committee members understood that this bill is a matter of public safety. It will allow many already on our roads to be properly insured and identified; we all want to know who is on our roads,” said Johanna Calle, Program Coordinator for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, organizers of today’s march. “It is important to clarify that the license been proposed will have federal limitations. It will only be valid to drive. It will not be recognized as a federal identification to board planes like standard licenses given to American citizens. A similar model was already approved in California. Many immigrant families need this limited license to provide for their families. Aside from bringing many out of the shadows in New Jersey, it would generate new revenues for the state and local businesses and we hope our legislators are making note of that,” she continued.

“When it comes to allowing all New Jerseyans – regardless of status – to drive legally, the facts from our research are clear: This commonsense policy would make New Jersey safer, improve cooperation with law enforcement, help its economy and increase the wellbeing of many families,” said Erika Nava, Policy Analyst, NJ Policy Perspective, who testified in front of the Committee. “But it’s not just undocumented residents who would benefit. This legislation could also help veterans who have trouble proving their status, the homeless and other vulnerable populations. These people are more likely than you or me to lack the many specific documents currently required under the state’s 6-point system. And this bill is by no means some radical, off-the-wall proposal. It’s simply pragmatic. That’s why 12 other states and Washington D.C. have already enacted similar policies to ensure that all their drivers are trained, tested, licensed, insured and accountable for their driving performance. The evidence from states that adopted this policy years ago suggest that it will make the state’s roadways safer. And local communities would be safer, thanks to increased trust between immigrant residents and law enforcement,” she added.

“I have lived in the United States for 24 years and I am very thankful to this country because here I got married and had my two sons. But above all else, I am thankful because this is a country with generous and fair laws. The driver’s licenses are vital to us, and for not having one we have had to suffer for many years. It was always our fear to be found out and it has caused us anxious mornings, fearful days, and sleepless nights. And for us, our nightmares came true as the police arrested my husband when he was coming back from work. We had to pay for a lawyer to represent us, along with fines to the court all while in fear and uncertainty of being deported,” said Maria Pereira, a member of Make the Road N.J. and resident of Hillside, N.J. “Now my sons are in college and since they are American citizens they have their own driver’s licenses. However, we, as their parents, remain in the same situation and are unable to fully support them financially to complete their education. For all of this, your support on this matter is crucial. To have a driver’s license is not a reward to an undocumented immigrant, it is respect of dignity and integrity towards a human being and a reasonable step forward for immigrants,” she continued.

“Expanding access to licenses enhances security by bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and into government databases. State motor vehicle databases are the most comprehensive databases of U.S. residents in the country and contain more information about people than the IRS database, Social Security database, or state birth certificate databases,” said Ari Rosmarin, Public Policy Director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “Former Department of Homeland Security Inspector General and head of the Homeland Security Program at the Aspen Institute, Clark Kent Ervin, argues that keeping undocumented immigrants out of state motor vehicle databases ‘might make the already difficult job of identifying terrorists even harder’. Indeed, our policy of preventing undocumented New Jerseyans from accessing driver’s licenses hinders law enforcement more than it enhances it. Expanding access to licenses will bolster law enforcement’s ability to keep us safe,” he added.

If it passes, New Jersey would join 13 states and Washington DC in allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. About 464,000 New Jersey residents could benefit from this policy.

About the Legislation A4425/S2925:

*The bill allows New Jerseyans without documents proving their immigration status to apply for a limited license.

*It would say “Federal Limits Apply” on the front, meaning that it could not be used to board flights, for example. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has approved a similar model in California.