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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Allowing undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses would be boon for both New York and New Jersey, study says

ALBANY — Allowing nearly 1.2 million driving age immigrants in the tri-state area access to driver’s licenses could fatten the state coffers by as much as $83 million, according to a report released Wednesday, and make the roads safer.

The Center for Popular Democracy and National Immigration Law Center joined together on “Safe Roads Across the Tristate Area,” which found 444,000 undocumented immigrants would be eligible in New Jersey and 752,000 in the Empire State. Roughly 222,000 undocumented New Jersey residents and 265,000 undocumented New Yorkers would be expected to obtain a license within three years, the report found.

The report highlights the public safety, economic, and human benefits of allowing undocumented immigrants in New York and New Jersey to go apply for a license, take a test, and obtain a license.

Lawmakers in both states are mulling over legislation that would expand access to driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

According to recent estimates by the Fiscal Policy Institute, New York stands to gain $57 million in annual revenue from car registrations, sales gas and vehicle use taxes, as well as a one-time increase of $26 million from New York residents acquiring driver’s licenses and registrations, the report notes.

New Jersey Policy Perspectives finds that New Jersey could earn at least $90 million in annual revenue, and about $21 million from permit, title fees, and driver’s licenses fees for the first three years of implementation.

The new report also studied the impacts of similar measures in states that have already enacted such laws and found that they made roads safer, boosted the economy and kept families together.

“Here in the Northeast, New York and New Jersey have the opportunity—and an urgent need to—pass legislation this year and join the growing number of states across the country that already allow all their residents to go through the same process to obtain a license,” said Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy.

Elected officials in Albany have until the end of the legislative session on June 17 to pass a bill.

Currently, twelve states, including neighboring Connecticut, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have passed laws that make driver’s licenses accessible to all eligible residents, regardless of immigration status. The report notes that statistics show hit-and-runs decreased in states that instituted the policy as the number of insured drivers increased.

In California, hit-and-runs fell by 10% in the year immediately after the policy was adopted, amounting to 4,000 fewer hit-and-runs in the state.

In Hartford, Conn., where roughly 2,000 newly trained and licensed drivers are covered by the policy, the number of hit-and-run crashes has fallen by 20% since 2016.

The legislation would also help keep families from being separated, the report notes, citing personal stories of immigrants who have risked driving in the Empire State without a license.

David Vergara, a Staten Island resident and member of the progressive Make the Road New York, said he stopped driving without a license after being pulled over while driving his sick daughter to the hospital.

“As a single father, my number one concern has always been my daughter’s well-being. When she’s sick or has an emergency, I need to be able to get there quickly, which public transportation on Staten Island doesn’t let me do,” he said. “Once, I rushed in a friend’s car to take my daughter to the hospital, but a policeman stopped me and told me he would’ve arrested me if she weren’t there, which likely would have led to my deportation.”