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.
What can you do?