Poughkeepsie Common Council Endorses Greenlight Legislation Expanding Access to Drivers Licenses to All New York State Residents

cropped-NLMH-Logo-Black-No-Background-300ppiContact: Jonathan Bix, Executive Director, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson,845-481-0703 or Jonathan@nobodyleavesmidhudson.org 

Poughkeepsie NY — On Monday, the Poughkeepsie Common Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of bill A10273/S08680 before the New York State legislature, which expands access to driver’s licenses to all New York State residents, regardless of immigration status.

New York law 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. On May 14th, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson bused over 110 residents from Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Middletown, Newburgh, and Monroe to the New York State Capitol Building for a statewide mobilization for the campaign. 

In response to Green Light’s organizing, the city of Hudson and villages of Ossining, Port Chester, Irvington, and Mamaroneck all previously passed resolutions in support of the legislation, while Mayor Minor of Syracuse has also publicly supported the campaign. 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. 

“Without access to licenses, many immigrants are unable to purchase, register, and insure their own vehicles and so face major barriers to meeting the most basic needs of day-to-day life: traveling to work, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and attending places of worship without risking deportation due to a routine traffic stop,” said Poughkeepsie City Councilmember Sarah Salem, who sponsored the Poughkeepsie resolution in support of the statewide bill. “The passage of this bill will bring a multitude of benefits to all New Yorkers. New York State and County governments will receive an estimated $57 million in combined annual revenue, and $26 million in one-time revenue through taxes and fees. Licensing immigrant drivers will help lower insurance premiums for all residents, by an estimate of $17 per person each year, which collectively saves motorists millions of dollars annually.”

“Undocumented immigrants upstate are forced to take the risk of driving without a license every day. Meanwhile, President Trump’s new deportation force is increasingly targeting immigrant drivers, making driver’s license expansion one of the strongest measures New York could take to protect undocumented immigrants,” said Jonathan Bix, Executive Director of Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. “Expanding driver’s license access will also benefit all New Yorkers by growing the economy, lowering insurance costs, and increasing road safety. We’re grateful to the entire Poughkeepsie Common Council for their support for equal access to driver’s licenses for all.”

As State Fair Kicks Off, Upstate NY Elected Officials Support Driver’s Licenses For Immigrant Farmworkers

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Aug 21, 2018

Contact: Carly Fox, cfox@wjcny.org, (585) 500-9409

The State Fair starts tomorrow and will be a celebration of New York’s agricultural industry. However, the workers who are a key part of its success are largely invisible.  They need to have freedom of movement and protection from being put in the deportation pipeline simply because they don’t have a NYS license. The statewide coalition “Green Light Driving Together” is led by immigrant workers and advocacy organizations working together to gain limited purpose licenses for all.  Today, Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse elected officials stand together to say: It’s time for New York State to make licenses accessible to all.

Advocates across the state say that New York should join the twelve states that issue licenses to those without a social security number. “New York should resume issuing licenses, just as we did for decade until 2002.  The health of our upstate farms and cities are inseparable, and safe driving for workers, by having access to a license, would drive the health of our region.”  said Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council Representative.  If passed, the measure will generate $57 million dollars a year for our state’s economy.

Immigrant leaders explain that having access to licenses would curtail the pipeline to deportation for vulnerable populations in rural areas of upstate NY, where law enforcement has routinely called Border Patrol for simple traffic infractions.  “As a father raising U.S.-born children, I want them to have the same opportunities as others. If the police stop us, we might be deported just because we can’t show a license. My children are terrified every time we drive because it could mean we will be permanently separated.” says Luis Jimenez, a dairy worker and president of the Agricultural Alliance in Western NY.  “We are an integral part of the motor that drives our state’s agriculture and for us, driving is not a privilege, it is a necessity of daily life.”

License requirements can either be changed through two paths: Governor’s direct order, and through a change in the law. Assembly Bill 4050, first introduced in 2016, would make a standard license available regardless of immigration status. The bill gained momentum during the 2017-2018 legislative session, with 34 Assembly Members signed on, including Pamela Hunter, Harry Bronson, Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and it was introduced in Senate as S at the end of session. Nine Senators have signed on so far.

“The New York State Fair is a place to celebrate the critical contributions of upstate farmworkers” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “However, many farmworkers are still unable to drive to and from work, seek a doctor, and sign up for car insurance. It’s time for New York to move forward and make driver’s licenses for all a reality. It’s just common sense and an economic boon for the state,”

“On the eve of the State Fair, we are here to support the workers who support our agricultural industry by working hard for their freedom of movement” said Carly Fox, Senior Worker Rights Advocate with the Rochester Worker Justice Center. “The State Fair is a moment to celebrate the contribution of agriculture to New York State, however, for most of the workers in NY who pick our fruit and milk our cows, there are significant barriers to be able to get to the grocery store and buy food.”

The Green Light NY: Driving Together campaign seeks to ensure equal access to driver’s licenses for all residents of New York State, regardless of immigration status. Our statewide coalition brings together immigrant communities, advocates, allies and other stakeholders to coordinate a unified driver’s license campaign. Twelve states across the country have chosen safer roads and increased revenue by giving undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. If New York does they same, it will increase revenue from licensing and other fees by $57 million annually for city and county governments statewide.

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