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

Newark passed the resolution with a unanimous vote. Newark is the 9th municipality to pass a resolution urging the state legislature and governor to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants

 For Immediate Release

June 18, 2015

Contact: Vera Parra, Organizer, Faith in New Jersey, 917-519-7656

Renata Mauriz, Organizer, Wind of the Spirit, 201-841-3765

Newark – The largest municipality in New Jersey 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 Newark Municipal Council voted on a resolution introduced by Councilman Eddie Osborne by a unanimous vote, making Newark the ninth city to pass this type of resolution, following Camden, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Plainfield, Dover, Bridgeton, and Jersey City. 

In New Jersey, advocates, immigrant rights groups, and faith communities from various cities are working to build support for pending legislation (A. 4425, S. 2925) that would allow undocumented immigrants to have access to driver’s licenses.  "Allowing undocumented immigrants to have a NJ Driver's License will make the driving in New Jersey safer and give our immigrant brothers and sisters an important tool for work,” says Rev. Moacir Weirich, pastor at St. Stephen’s Grace Community Church and Faith in New Jersey member. “It will also dignify the life of many people who already suffered so much and deserve being treated with justice.”

A report from New Jersey Policy Perspective released last month highlights the benefits of proposed legislation that would grant access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.  "Allowing all residents the opportunity to drive legally would make New Jersey safer, help its economy and increase the well-being of many families. The Garden State should follow the lead of 11 states and Washington D.C., and ensure that all drivers, regardless of their immigration status, are tested, trained, licensed, insured and accountable for their driving records."

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 Newark it is necessary to travel by car rather than public transportation. 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. “Being able to drive would improve my family’s quality of life, by expanding work opportunities, and helping us access the healthcare we need,” said Carmela Alza, a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newark. “Now that Newark has approved municipal IDs for immigrants, the next step is passing driver’s licenses in New Jersey. It is good for our immigrant communities, and good for the state as a whole.”

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.