NY’s lack of driver’s licenses puts families at risk
ROCHESTER, NY – Last week Carlos Cardona, Vice President of Alianza Agricola and East Bethany resident, was pulled over by Attica police, and handed over to Border Patrol for not having a driver’s license. He has been held at Batavia Detention Center, and after posting bond is scheduled to be released. Carlos still faces deportation and separation from his two young children.
Carlos is a prominent organizer in his community and part of the Green Light NY campaign to expand access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. He is originally from Guatemala, and has been living in the United States with his family for a decade. At the time he was pulled over, he was on his way to celebrate his daughter’s 3rd birthday.
“As a mother to hear that this incident happened filled with me fear and I felt so bad when Carlos’ wife told me it was even her daughter’s birthday, and that she keeps asking for her father. How do you explain this to a child? How do you explain that the laws of her country don’t protect her father for the simple fact that he doesn’t have a driver’s license and is undocumented? I want to ask Governor Cuomo — who so many times has said that he wants to protect the immigrants — to at this moment establish state policies that are just and that protect the immigrant community,” said Blanca Jimenez, Alianza Agricola Member.
“The detainment of Dalila Yend two months ago in Troy and Carlos Cardona last week in Attica are just the most recent cases of New York families being separated due to unequal access to drivers licenses and the governor’s failure to take action,” said Bryan MacCormack, Executive Director of Columbia County Sanctuary Movement.
“Carlos is a leader in our Western New York community and his detention is a travesty. This is a Rosa Parks moment; freedom of movement is a right that everyone should have. Carlos’ detention should be the LAST: Cuomo, make licenses accessible to all immigrants today,” said Jennifer Connor, Organizer, Justice for Migrant Families WNY.
“Today more than ever, we need Governor Cuomo to pass an executive order giving access to driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers. Last week, one of our comrades from the north of the state ended up in the hands of the border patrol. This could have been avoided if he had had a driver’s license. Like him, there are many members of our community around the state at risk. We do not want more family separation and it’s time for New York and our Governor to act,” said Gabriela Andrade, organizer of Make the Road New York.
“Governor Cuomo must take action now to ensure hardworking New Yorkers like Carlos Cardano have access to driver’s licenses,” said John Park, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center. “Without action, immigrants risk being detained and separated from their families every time they get inside a car to drive their kids to school or go to work. Driver’s licenses for all would benefit immigrant communities and ultimately improve the state’s economy and improve driver safety.”
“Immigration enforcement is literally ripping parents out of their cars and separating families on our roads. If Carlos had a driver’s license, he would have been home with his daughter celebrating her birthday, instead of sitting in a jail cell. Governor Andrew Cuomo must oppose Trump’s family separation policies and sign an executive order now to protect all New Yorkers,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
“The possible separation of Carlos from his children shows, yet again, that If Governor Cuomo truly opposes family separations he must immediately sign an executive order to expand driver’s license access to all New Yorkers,” said Jonathan Bix, Executive Director of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson.
“Every minute that Governor Cuomo waits to sign an executive order to give access to drivers Licenses for undocumented immigrants in New York, he puts immigrant workers in New York State at risk for deportation and separation from their families as well as affecting the economy in the agricultural industry. It is inhumane to wait any longer Governor Cuomo, sign this executive order now because workers like Carlos deserve our gratitude and our action,” said Rebecca Fuentes, Lead Organizer for the Workers’ Center of Central New York
Expanding access to driver’s licenses would allow families to drive safely and move with security on the road. Having a valid driver’s license and form of identification would significantly decrease the chances of immigrant residents being turned over to Border Patrol when pulled over by police, and stop families from being separated.
Driver’s licenses would bring in an estimated $57 million in annual state and county revenue in registration fees, sales taxes, and gas taxes; plus $26 million in one-time revenues as more people obtain licenses, buy cars, and register vehicles. It would also be a boon for public transportation, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) receiving an additional $8.6 million in annual revenue from New York City, Long Island, and Lower Hudson surcharges to car registration, gas tax, and sales tax, as well as $2.2 million in one-time revenue from the driver’s licenses surcharge.
Expanding access to driver’s licenses will reduce risk when reporting accidents and increase road safety and responsibility. Existing drivers will also enjoy a cost savings of $17 per year on their auto insurances, as more drivers sign up for licenses.
Upstate small businesses and farms that rely on immigrant labor would also benefit. About 20% of New York State’s land area is farmland with nearly 36,000 family farms. According to Farm Credit East, without undocumented and migrant farm workers, New York agricultural production would likely be reduced by more than $1.37 billion or 24 percent of the value of the state’s agricultural output.