Newburgh City Council Endorses Driver’s Licenses for the Undocumented

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Contact: Ignacio Acevedo, Lead Organizer, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson

June 12, 2018

845-481-0703 or Ignacio@nobodyleavesmidhudson.org

Newburgh NY — On Monday, the Newburgh City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of bill A10273/S08680 before the New York State legislature, which would expand access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

 New York currently requires residents to have a social security number in order to obtain a driver’s license. Currently, 12 states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted laws to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.

 The legislative effort to expand driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers is being led by the statewide Green Light NY: Driving Together coalition, of which local organization Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson is a key leader.

 In response to Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson’s organizing, the city of Poughkeepsie has already passed a resolution in support of the bill, and in response to other Green Light Coalition members the city of Hudson and villages of Ossining, Port Chester, Irvington, and Mamaroneck all previously passed resolutions in support of the legislation. Green Light has also made the legislation a core issue in the Democratic primary of the New York Governor’s race, with progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon making driver’s license expansion to undocumented New Yorkers a campaign plank and Governor Andrew Cuomo not having backed the legislation. 

“Undocumented immigrants upstate are forced to take the risk of driving without a license every day. Driver’s licenses will make it easier for immigrants to pick up prescriptions, get their children to school, and go to work,” said Ignacio Acevedo, Lead Organizer at Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. “Equal access to driver’s licenses will also benefit all New Yorkers by growing the economy, lowering insurance costs, and increasing road safety.”

Hundreds Join Together in Albany to Fight for Driver’s License Access for All New Yorkers Regardless of Status

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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 A4050which 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.”

Road Safety Champions Rev Up Support For Immigrant Drivers

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Saugerties Police Chief comes out for Driver’s License Access Bill + Sen. Sepúlveda signs on as Senate sponsor

ALBANY, NY – Today, Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra and suburban New York lawmakers called on the Assembly to pass legislation expanding access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers (A.10273). Newly elected Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda has introduced a same as bill in the Senate (S.8680).

Introduced by Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the Driver License Access and Privacy Act 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. Existing drivers will also enjoy a cost savings of $17 per year on their auto insurances, as more drivers sign up for policies.

“This bill would allow drivers from Saugerties to Sag Harbour to move safely and securely on our roads, while lowering the cost of car insurance and raising millions in revenue. It’s just good common sense and an economic boon for the state. Now we need Governor Cuomo and our legislative leaders to drive this forward,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“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 all individuals in New York State to obtain a limited purpose driver’s license is paramount to the mission of public safety.  These individuals will be less likely to run from police during a routine vehicle and traffic stop and will reduce the likelihood of police pursuits that usually end tragically.  We must also look at the number of uninsured motorist and unlicensed drivers: when they are involved in accidents and must file claims, it currently increases insurance rates unfairly for those who are properly licensed and insured. I support this legislation and encourage our elected officials to do the same in both the Assembly and the Senate,” said Joseph A. Sinagra, MPA, Chief of Police Saugerties Police Department.

“Providing every New Yorker with the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license is just common sense from an economic and public safety perspective. On eastern Long Island a driver’s license is critical to economic self-sufficiency.  Further, we are all safer on the road knowing our fellow drivers are properly licensed,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

“Driving is a fundamental part of daily life, this isn’t only an issue about immigration it’s about the safety of all New Yorkers. People deserve a sense of safety on their daily commutes. Driver’s licenses would allow people to be insured which is a benefit to other drivers on the road, being pulled over for a traffic violation one can be properly identified. Driving is also an essential part of the economy to be able to commute to and from work and seek more job opportunities,” said Kayla Kelechian, organizer with the WCCNY.

“It is very important for us to have a driver’s license. We have to go buy food and go to the doctors. Driver’s licences can help stop separating families, we want and deserve to be safe in the state where we live,” said Crispin Hernandez, Organizer with the WCCNY and Consejo member.

“Undocumented immigrants upstate are forced to take the risk of driving without a license every day. Driver’s licenses will make it easier for immigrants to pick up prescriptions, get their children to school, and go to work,” said Ignacio Acevedo, Lead Organizer at Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. “Equal access to driver’s licenses will also benefit all New Yorkers by growing the economy, lowering insurance costs, and increasing road safety.”

“This is an equal access issue that cuts across lines. It is important to the college student, to the restaurant worker, to the farmworkers in western New York, to the drivers who all share one road. Restaurants, farms, construction, education, business, civic and faith groups- they all require movement. Now is the time for New York to move. Western New York only stands to benefit, in every way,” said Jennifer Connor organizer from Justice for Migrant Families WNY.

“It is unthinkable that, in 2018, immigrants in New York State should have to worry about a routine traffic stop resulting in deportation. Denying driver’s license access to  hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers benefits no one. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that all drivers in our state are licensed, registered, and insured. For immigrants in rural communities, a driver’s license is especially critical for accessing basic services and medical care, commuting to and from work, and everyday necessities such as grocery shopping. It’s past time for New York lawmakers to address this issue,” said Lewis O. Papenfuse executive director of the Worker Justice Center of NY.

“This is a human rights issues, but more than that, this is a pragmatic solution that benefits everyone. Granting driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of citizenship status, improves public safety on our roads and makes our communities safer. Driving is often essential to holding a job, going to school, and providing basic necessities such as food and medical care. With the ability to drive safely and legally, undocumented families can live more visibly in society, facilitating productive integration into the fabric of our economy. This is a common sense policy that will raise revenue and increase economic development. CVH will always stand with immigrants, and we urge the legislature to pass this legislation,” said Afua Atta-Mensah, Esq., Executive Director of Community Voices Heard.

“There is enormous urgency for all New Yorkers to have access to driver’s licenses. I remember during Hurricane Sandy there was no public transportation for the people of Staten Island. My neighbor’s son was extremely sick, and he came over asking me to please drive him to the nearest hospital. With no public transportation available, our only option was to drive. I had to drive without a license, putting me at risk of being stopped and detained, but I needed to help my neighbor and his son,” said Manuel Martinez, member of Make the Road New York.

“The power of freedom of movement is a necessity and not a privilege,  we all have to move freely without fear. Drivers licence is not a luxury that we want, it is something that allows us to live a life without fear,” said Luis, Member of Alianza Agricola.

Background

This bill will allow all New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants, to drive legally, open bank accounts for financial security, and feel more secure reporting crimes to law enforcement who ask for identification.

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.

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.

LG Hochul Fails to Provide Clarity on Driver’s Licenses Stance & Past Comments

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.”

Background

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.

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Statewide Coalition to Gov. Cuomo: Take Action Now on Driver’s Licenses

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The Green Light NY: Driving Together Coalition, representing dozens of immigrant base-building organizations and their allies across the state, calls on Governor Cuomo to take immediate action to protect immigrant New Yorkers. For past past two years, the coalition has been advocating for legislation that would restore access to driver’s licenses for undocumented New Yorker, but the legislature has failed to act. Immigrant New Yorkers can wait no longer. Governor Cuomo has repeatedly pledged to support and protect undocumented New Yorkers. Yet routine traffic stops throughout our state continue to trigger immigration enforcement actions leading to detention, deportation, and family separation. It is time for Governor Cuomo to use his executive power to allow undocumented New Yorkers to obtain a standard driver’s license, register and insure their vehicles, and drive safely without fear that simple traffic violation will put them in the crosshairs of President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Today the coalition demands a response to following letter.

Dear Governor Cuomo,

In recent weeks our country has witnessed an escalation in the Trump Administration’s full-force assault on immigrant communities at the border and at home. Our communities are facing the reality of heightened and inhumane immigration enforcement and no one feels safe. ICE, Border Patrol and local police departments have created chaos in our neighborhoods, courts, schools, and workplaces. Children are afraid that their parents may not come home after work or that ICE might break into their house.

Despite the growing support at the community level, the New York Senate and Assembly failed to pass the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act (A.10273/S.08680) in the 2018 legislative session. For this reason, we are calling on you to be true to your commitment to do everything in your power to stand up to the Trump Administration and protect New York’s immigrant and refugee families immediately.

A driver’s license is the most effective protection for many in our communities. In most areas of the state where driving is a necessity, driving without a license is extremely risky and every day leads to deportation. New York’s immigrants are frequently profiled by the local police and referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Border Patrol (BP) as the result of a simple driving infraction or routine stop. Those living and working along the northern border of our state are especially vulnerable. Having a driver’s license can serve as a shield to protect New York’s immigrants and keeping families together.

We appreciate past measures you have taken for New York to stand in support of immigrant families and against the policies of this administration. In recent weeks, we have seen you take swift executive action on other issues where our legislative bodies have failed. We now ask you to make the New York State standard driver’s license accessible to all state residents regardless of immigration status by issuing an executive order immediately. Immigrant families cannot wait until 2019 legislative session for protection.

The Steering Committee of the Green Light NY: Driving Together Coalition includes the following organizations: Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, Worker Justice Center of NY, Workers’ Center of Central NY, Justice for Migrant Families, Columbia Count Sanctuary Movement,  MinKwon Center for Community Action, Make the Road NY, and the New York Immigration Coalition.

Press Contacts:

Western New York (Buffalo)
Jennifer Conner, Justice for Migrant Families
(716) 550-9393

Western New York (Rochester)
Carly Fox, The Worker Justice Center of New York
(585) 500-9409

Central New York and North Country (Syracuse)
Rebecca Fuentes, The Worker Center of Central New York
(315) 218-5708

Capitol Region/Upper Hudson Valley
Bryan MacCormack, Columbia County Sanctuary Movement
(518) 821-6780

Hudson Valley
Emma Kreyche, The Worker Justice Center of New York
(845) 546-5304
Ignacio Acevedo, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson
(845) 800-8340

New York City
New York Immigration Coalition
(212) 627-2227 or press@nyic.org
David Choi, Minkwon Center for Community Action
(718) 460-5600 ext.308

Long Island
Walter Barrientos, Make the Road New York
(929) 271-0089