LG + Gov needs to be leading, NY lagging behind 12 other states
NEW YORK, NY – Yesterday, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul attempted to walk back a statement she made 10 years ago as Erie County Clerk on driver’s licenses for immigrant New Yorkers.
Published in the New York Times on November 4th, 2007, “‘I do not support the governor’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,’ she said to whooping cheers and applause. ‘I have a problem with that, ladies and gentlemen.’ Ms. Hochul went a step further. If anyone comes to the main clerk’s office seeking a license with a foreign passport but without a valid visa stamp, Ms. Hochul said, she will process the application — and then pass the person’s name on to the county sheriff as a possible violator of immigration law.”
At the New York Democratic Convention last week as reported by Politico, Lt. Governor Hochul attempted to explain herself: “I was an elected official in Erie County, and I represented the people of that district,” Hochul told reporters. “What I would say today with respect to the driver’s licenses: It is a whole different era out there. That was 11 years ago, and there were very few people saying that was the right policy at the time… I saw what’s happening with people living in these communities trying to get to jobs on the farms and farmers are begging for the workers and transportation is an issue,” she said. “So these are issues that came to light since the time I proudly served as the Erie County clerk.”
Eight hours later, Hochul spokeswoman Haley Viccaro called Politico to reverse her statement that the lieutenant governor “is supporting driver’s licenses for immigrants. … I can’t tell you why she didn’t say that directly.” When asked whether Hochul supported legislation or an executive order to expand access to driver’s licenses, her spokeswoman replied, “She’s going to support whatever the governor says is the best thing to do. That’s where she stands.”
In response, Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said:
“Kathy Hochul’s past comments about driver’s licenses were as wrong 10 years ago as they are today. 12 other states have already expanded access to driver’s licenses, it’s well past time for the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor to be leading on this. This should be a priority for a progressive administration.”
The Driver License Access and Privacy Act (A.10273/S.8680) 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.
Existing drivers will also enjoy a cost savings of $17 per year on their auto insurances, as more drivers sign up for policies.
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 farmworkers, 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.