Gov Cuomo: Act Now on Driver’s Licenses to Protect NY Immigrant Families

Immigrant advocates call for executive action amid spike in detention

BUFFALO, NY – As the number of New York immigrants detained grows, the New York Immigration Coalition, Alianza Agricola, the Workers Justice Center of New York, and community members held a press call today demanding Governor Andrew Cuomo take executive action and expand access to driver’s licenses to protect all New Yorkers.

On August 30th, 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 was held at Batavia Detention Center and after posting bond was released; however, he still faces deportation and separation from his two young children.

“With every day that passes and New Yorkers still lack access to driver’s licenses, our roads are less protected and families like Carlos’ are at higher risk of being separated. Expanding access to driver’s licenses would be a major step for all New Yorkers, who will be able to drive to and from work, sign up for car insurance, and feel less afraid to fulfill day-to-day activity. It is up to Governor Andrew Cuomo to move forward to ensure the safety of our communities,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“By restoring access to driver’s licences Governor Cuomo can change the lives of the dairy workers that bring $14 billion a year to our state economy, and allow them to safely travel to work and provide for their children. Governor Cuomo must stop turning his back on immigrant New Yorkers,” said Carly Fox, Senior Worker Rights Advocate at Worker Justice Center of New York.

Carlos is a prominent community organizer 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.

Background

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.

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