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Jun 12, 2019 10:15 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Assembly Passes Bill To Allow Undocumented Immigrants To Get Driver's Licenses

OLA recently held a televised forum on the proposed legislation with speakers including Fred Thiele, Barbara Layton, Sandra Gonzalez, Dr. Gail Schonfeld and Minerva Perez. COURTESY MINERVA PEREZ
Jun 13, 2019 10:41 AM

UPDATE: Thursday, 9:30 a.m.

The New York State Assembly approved a bill 86-47 on Wednesday that would give undocumented immigrants the right to obtain basic New York driver’s licenses.

The bill must still be considered by the State Senate and, if approved there, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.


Community advocacy groups backing a state bill that would give undocumented immigrants the right to obtain basic New York driver’s licenses have recently revised the legislation to reflect local law enforcement concerns, hoping to win their support as the measure faces a key moment in Albany this week.

In April, Minerva Perez, executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, met with the East End Police Chiefs organization, which includes Steven Skrynecki of Southampton Town and Michael Sarlo of East Hampton Town, to discuss clarifying ambiguous language in the bill.

In short, Ms. Perez explained that the police chiefs were concerned that the bill’s privacy provision—which prohibits third-party agencies from using the license as evidence of citizenship or as the basis for arresting or detaining a person—also prevented local law enforcement officers from obtaining information.

Ms. Perez said that was never the intention. The revisions, made by the measure’s legislative sponsor, make it clear that local law enforcement will have the ability to access drivers’ basic information to enforce traffic laws and public safety.

Neither Chief Skrynecki or Chief Sarlo responded to requests for comment.

Additionally, the amendment adds language protecting the Department of Motor Vehicle data from being used for immigration enforcement purposes.

Ms. Perez said on Monday that she recently met with Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller, who, in a written statement, acknowledged the need to establish similar legislation.

“The East End Chiefs all agree that everyone who drives in [New York State] should have a valid driver’s license,” he said. “We did … have reservations with the original draft … We are optimistic that the revised draft addresses all of our concerns.”

He added that the East End Chiefs plan to meet to discuss the revisions as a group on Wednesday, June 12.

The State Assembly was also scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to include the bill in the state budget agreement. If approved, the proposed legislation would then move to the State Senate.

“Licensed and insured drivers is not a citizen question—it’s a road safety question,” Ms. Perez said.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., a co-sponsor of the bill, shared a similar perspective.

“The problem with the legislation is it gets sucked into the vortex of the national debate about immigration, and I think that obscures what this bill is really about and what its benefits are,” he said on Wednesday morning. “To me, providing licenses for people who can pass the test and meet all the requirements is a way to improve public safety. I’d rather have licensed, insured drivers on the roads.”

At a public meeting held in Bridgehampton earlier this year, Eliana Fernandez, the lead Long Island organizer for Make the Road New York for Green Light NY—the statewide coalition campaigning to get the legislation passed—spoke to a number of additional benefits.

If approved, she said the legislation would help to boost the state economy by roughly $57 million in combined annual revenue and about $27 million in one-time revenue through taxes. She added that it would also lower car insurance premiums and increase road traffic safety.

The revised draft legislation lists forms of identification that can be used to obtain a license, including unexpired foreign passports and driver's licenses, or a consular identification document issued by a consulate of the applicant’s country of citizenship.

Additionally, applicants without a Social Security number can submit a signed affidavit stating that they have not been issued one.

Mr. Thiele explained that prior to 2002, undocumented immigrants in New York were allowed to apply for and receive driver’s licenses. However, an executive order, passed by Congress after 9/11, modified the law, requiring immigrants to provide proof of legal status in order to obtain a license.

“The thing is that we have a clock ticking,” Ms. Perez said. “If this doesn’t get brought to the Senate floor in June, we’re in trouble.”

She added that the bill’s failure could result in more unlicensed drivers, as well as a higher rate of fatal accidents. “That’s why we’re pushing so hard.”

Local undocumented immigrants are known to drive without licenses, putting them at risk of being arrested—even, ultimately, deported—if they’re stopped for a traffic violation. This also creates a bigger problem when an accident occurs, because they don’t have car insurance, she said.

“I don’t think a week goes by where I read the police blotter—it’s usually filed with people that are unlicensed, driving unregistered vehicles that are uninsured,” Mr. Thiele said. “On the East End in particular, I think it’s a critical part of our economy. Undocumented immigrants are here. They are part of the economy and, despite my best efforts with trains and buses, you still need an automobile to be able to get to work.”

According to the amended draft legislation, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles is also required to provide a space on learner’s permit, driver’s license and non-driver identification card applications allowing individuals to register with the U.S. Selective Service.

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NO, NO, NO... These people are draining our economy getting free food stamps, free health care and a free education. They work and don't pay into the economy.
Fernendez says it will lower your insurance rates, how is this going to happen? When a officer stops a person, finds drugs, alcohol or other violations, you don't want them to look for other violations??? Undocumented is ILLEGAL...
I worked all my life, payed into SS, state and fed taxes. SS is going broke. I go to the grocery and ...more
By knitter (1858), Southampton on Jun 12, 19 2:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
To *hit
By HamptonDad (235), Hampton Bays on Jun 12, 19 5:39 PM
Gracias senor Knitter..:)
By V.Tomanoku (783), southampton on Jun 13, 19 6:57 PM
Community advocacy backing a state bill that would give illegal immigrants the right to obtain a driver’s license is wrong. It is that simple. Congress was clear after 9/11 requiring immigrants to provide proof of legal status in order to obtain a license. This is a “licensed and insured drivers” issue for citizens of the USA. You pay to drive on roads. Illegals do not. This is a perfect example of government agencies being forced not cooperate with each other if the DMV information ...more
By Hamptonsway (94), Southampton on Jun 17, 19 9:03 PM
How is this supposed to lower insurance rates? Most illegals don't even have insurance. Vehicles are registered in South Carolina, Virginia , Texas, etc.
By tyspapa (10), Westhampton Beach on Jun 12, 19 4:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why do you think they don't have insurance?

Read the article slowly and mull it over.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (7664), HAMPTON BAYS on Jun 12, 19 6:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Hamptonsway (94), Southampton on Jun 13, 19 9:00 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Hamptonsway (94), Southampton on Jun 13, 19 9:05 PM
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