Green Light NY: Driving Together Statewide Coalition Holds a “Day of Action”
in Albany to Lobby for Driver’s Licenses for All
Today on the Million Dollar Steps at the New York State Capitol building in Albany, The Green Light NY: Driving Together Coalition held press conference calling for access to driver’s license for all New York residents, regardless of immigration status. Hundreds of advocates and affected immigrants filled the steps of the Capitol building, urging New York’s elected officials to stand behind Bill A4050, which will provide limited purpose driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Advocates of the bill urged legislators to support it, stating that its passage will help protect immigrants, improve public safety, and strengthen the state’s economy.
Restoring driver’s license access to New York’s undocumented residents is a critical step in protecting immigrants, strengthening public safety, and growing the economy. In regions without public transportation, undocumented immigrants are forced to drive to meet basic daily needs, which places them at risk of arrest and subsequent deportation every time they are on the road. Providing a limited purpose driver’s license improves public safety by ensuring that everyone driving on our roads is properly licensed, informed of our traffic laws, and is operating a registered, inspected and insured vehicle, which undocumented immigrants cannot do now.
Immigrants who have limited purpose driver’s license will be more comfortable reporting crimes to the police and cooperating in investigations, while police officers will be able to fulfill their duties more effectively and efficiently. Moreover, limited purpose licenses allow immigrant families to more fully participate in community life and contribute an additional $60 million in annual revenue to the state. With the recent executive actions on immigration signed by President Trump, there is an additional imperative to allow undocumented immigrants the choice to receive a license. The new bill will require data not be stored in perpetuity and that any request for this information by an outside party be accompanied by a judicial warrant.
Assemblymember Francisco P. Moya, of Queens, who is a sponsor of the bill, said, “Not all of New York has the extensive mass transit systems that cities do. Whether you’re in a suburb or somewhere even sparser, not having access to a car makes every daily task a struggle. Even in NYC, there are still transit deserts and commutes that take hours of travel and multiple connections. Not only will allowing immigrants to apply for a limited purpose driver’s license bring in millions of much needed revenue for the state, it will allow families to get groceries, go to work, pick up their child from school without spending an entire day to do so. There is no reason which isn’t based on prejudices to justify not passing this common sense legislation, and I urge my colleagues to give immigrant families access to this basic need.”
In support of the bill, Tiffany Garriga, Common Council Member, City of Hudson said, “Immigrants are an essential part of our community. Access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status is a step towards supporting our diversity as well as our safety.”
Luis Marino, Deputy Mayor, Village of Port Chester stated, “Driver’s licenses are a long waited right for our community. Now is the time to approve this new legislation to grant access to this important resource for our community!”
Steven Choi, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition said, “Providing limited purpose driver’s licenses to residents of New York, regardless of status, is a good policy for immigrants, and a great policy for New York. By providing these driver’s licenses, we can make our roads safer for everyone, grow our economy by an additional $57 million a year, and help prevent simple traffic infractions from becoming tragic deportations. Hundreds of immigrant community leaders from Buffalo to Brentwood have joined together with farmers, law enforcement, business, labor and faith leaders to tell New York’s elected officials to give a green light to driver’s licenses for all in New York.”
Elizabeth Henderson, The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York said,
“The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), the state’s leading organization providing effective programs and services that promote sustainable, local, organic food and farming, supports legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for and obtain driver’s licenses. Many farms in NY depend on the labor of undocumented workers. Allowing access to legal licenses will reduce the isolation many experience on farms, ensure farms maintain the workers they need and provide a sense of peace and security to farmworkers.”
Providing driver’s licenses for New Yorkers regardless of status has broad support, including support from law enforcement.
Chief Joseph Sinagra, Chief of Police, Saugerties Police Department said, “As a police Chief my number one concern is safety; safety for both our community and the men and women who serve our communities. Providing an opportunity for individuals absent legal residency in the US, to obtain a limited purpose driver’s license is paramount to the mission of public safety. ”
Dozens of affected immigrants who are part of the Greenlight NY: Driving Together Statewide Coalition came to Albany to share their stories with legislators to urge them to support the bill and uplift their livelihoods.
Pascual Vixtha, Worker Leader, Workers’ Center of Central NY (Onandaga County) said, “Before 2001 I was able to have license in NY. After September 11 I was not able to renew it. That happened to a lot of us. You have to be careful all the time because if they stop you without a license they can deport you. I have a lot of friends that have been arrested like that. You don’t feel free; you are not free. Sometimes, even if you are driving carefully, other people might not be, and if there is an accident we can get in trouble. We don’t mind paying for tickets, but a lot of us don’t do for fear to going to the courts. It’s like you were a person when you had the license, and when they took it away, we stopped being people. This is why we need licenses.”
Amalia Hernandez, member leader, Community Voices Heard (Orange County) said, “To be without a driver’s license is like being tied by your hands and feet and the fear keeps us locked within ourselves. We want freedom because we just want to be treated like human beings.
Jung Rae Jang, Community Organizer, Minkwon Center (Queens County) said, “As an undocumented immigrant who grew up in Georgia, I learned from my own experiences how vital driver’s licenses are for working families. Even now, my mom spends a significant portion of her time on public transit to get to her Westchester workplace from Flushing. Being able to obtain a driver’s license will ease the burden not only for my mom but also for working families throughout the New York state.”
Luis Rivas, member, Make the Road NY Long Island (Suffolk County) said, “A driver’s license is a necessity and not just a privilege for parents like me, who are raising families on Long Island and other parts of the state where public transportation is not reliable. Having a driver’s license would give me peace of mind as I drive to work or take my children to school without the fear of being stopped by the police and getting tickets for not having a license that our state does not allow us to get. We need New York’s leaders to support and pass commonsense protections for immigrant families in New York like the driver’s licenses bill, or else be complicit in the Trump administration’s continued war against immigrant communities.”
Luis Jimenez, Dairy Worker and Leader of Alianza Agricola (Livingston County) said, “I am a member of “Aliana Agricola”, a group of dairy workers in Livingston. We need a driver’s license to be able to move, to go to work, to drive our children to school and go to the doctor. Without one we cannot do any of that. It limits us at work and in the ways we can contribute to society and pursue the wellbeing of our families. For that reason we are fighting for this driver’s license proposal to be heard and won. It would also have the added benefit of improving public safety because we could pass the test, and register and insure our cars. That is all we want to use the document for. We would also help the economy through the extra taxes and fees we would pay, and the insurance and the cars we would buy. We are hardworking people whose only crime is to be here without papers. The only thing we want is to contribute to the nation we love and which has given us so much.”
Segundo Guayllasaca, member, Hudson Valley Community Coalition (Westchester) said, “Driver’s licenses provides the freedom and peace of mind to run errands with family, to come out of the shadows, and to improve safety on the roads. This legislation would be a just measure for those of us who work and contribute.”