Driver’s Licenses for ALL New Yorkers

Driver’s licenses for undocumented residents make New York safer


December 16, 2019

For Immediate Release

New York State Drivers’ License Law Goes into Effect Today

Neighbors Link Cites Public Safety as Being Paramount

MOUNT KISCO, NY -- Neighbors Link is very pleased to announce that New York’s “Drivers’ License Access and Privacy Act” goes into effect today. This enables all New York State residents to apply for drivers’ licenses regardless of immigration status, by providing a limited license that will require drivers’ education and insurance.It will also build trust between immigrant New Yorkers and New York State and local law enforcement. This new measure is a victory for public safety and for all who drive in New York State.

“Neighbors Link’s mission is to make the entire community stronger through the healthy integration of immigrants.Certainly, we are all safer and stronger when every resident of New York State who needs to drive can do so legally, driving a properly insured vehicle.Westchester County relies on its immigrant workforce to sustain the quality of life that makes it such a desirable place to live. Immigrant consumers are critical to our local economy,” says Carola Bracco, Executive Director of Neighbors Link, adding that Neighbors Link has been providing workshops for those seeking to obtain a drivers’ license.

“Driving is of particular necessity in suburban communities like Westchester, where public transportation is not always available or convenient,” says Ramiro Rincon, ONA Program Manager, Neighbors Link. “It is a rite of passage for many teens.All parents want their teens to be safe and that means they need to learn and abide by the rules the road.”

“It’s a relief to see public safety take precedence over divisive immigration politics,” says Karin Anderson Ponzer, Esq. Ph.D., Director of Legal Services, Neighbors Link Community Law Practice. “Immigrant New Yorkers will feel safe interacting with law enforcement officials because they can prove their identity and show that their vehicle is properly licensed and insured.”

Under prior law, New Yorkers without certain types of proof of status in the United States were unable to get New York drivers’ licenses.The old law created hardship for immigrant families when parents were unable to drive to work, to drive children to school or doctors’ appointments.Because of the old law, many New Yorkers were unable to get official documents proving their identity and were unable to license vehicles or purchase car insurance.

For more information about drivers’ license workshops, visit www.neighborslink.org or call 914-666-3410

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** On June 17, 2019, the NY Senate passed #GreenlightNY to grant driver's licenses for ALL New Yorkers and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law! The Green Light bill is a win-win for the safety and benefit of all New Yorkers. Hard working immigrants will be able to access a driver's license to drive to work or take their children to school and doctor's appointments without fear that a minor stop will lead to detention or even deportation. Neighbors Link is grateful to all the advocates who attended rallies and wrote or called their elected officials. And we are especially grateful to Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins for showing the leadership required for bringing this to a vote and to all the elected officials who championed this bill. **

The Issue: In New York State, there are more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants over the age of 16 who are currently barred from obtaining driver’s licenses as a result of their immigration status. Without access to licenses, immigrants are unable to register and insure their vehicles, obtain and carry valid identification, or build trust with police. Additionally, many unlicensed immigrants often risk driving because they lack reasonable public transportation alternatives and must travel to work. Immigrants without valid identification or permission to drive fear simple interactions with police, such as a traffic violation, will put them at risk of arrest and deportation. This leads to avoiding police, even when they are a victim or witness of a crime.

The Solution: New York now offers three types of driver’s licenses. These include an Enhanced License, a REAL ID License that can be used for federal and state purposes, and a Standard License that cannot be used for federal purposes. This limited purpose Standard Driver’s License provides an ideal opportunity to expand driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.

Benefits: There are many benefits to allowing access to driver’s licenses for ALL New Yorkers. Licensing undocumented immigrant drivers helps ensure that ALL drivers have licenses which require them to be informed of traffic laws and pass a driving test, and which enables them to register, inspect, and insure their vehicles. Additionally, allowing access to licenses will improve trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Finally, there is a significant economic benefit to licensing all drivers, both in the increase in annual revenue (estimated at $57 million) as well as lower insurance premiums for all residents.