A coalition of advocates convened at the New York State Assembly last week, urging officials to pass legislation expanding access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.
The Green Light NY coalition, including members of the New York Immigration Coalition, gained powerful momentum by enlisting Assembly co-sponsors for the bill, dubbed the “Driver License Access and Privacy Act.”
“This bill would allow drivers from Saugerties to Sag Harbor 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.
The bill is steadily gaining a base of co-sponsors that currently includes Long Island state assembly members Fred Thiele, Jr., Phil Ramos, and Anthony D’Urso.
“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 Thiele.
Until the legislation, or something similar, is enacted, there is at least one organization on Long Island that is serving the immigrant population’s transportation needs.
OLA, short for Organización Latino-Americana, provided transportation services through last month in the form of free van rides for Long Islanders in need in the East End, including for those without documentation.
“…With the rise in immigrant policing since 2016, undocumented people are much more afraid to be pulled over for driving without a license than ever before. If pulled over twice for driving without a license, a person can face jail time, and undocumented persons can even face deportation,” said Minerva Perez, Executive Director of OLA.
Perez added that the group’s main focus, however, is advocating for expanded public transportation options for those without access, including the undocumented community.
The “Green Light” bill would bring in an estimated $57 million in annual state and county revenue in registration fees, sales taxes, and gas taxes, including $2.6 million each year for Long Island. Existing drivers would also enjoy a cost savings of $17 per year on their auto insurances, as more drivers sign up for policies.
– with contributions from Isaiah Jacobs