Post-Midterm Development: A Potential ‘Green Light’ To Driver’s Licenses For All

Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, sponsor of the Green Light bill, stands with coalition members in support of driver's licenses for all. (Long Island Wins photo/Jano Tantongco)

Since the New York State legislature flipped this past midterm, the time is ripe to expand the access of driver’s licenses for all — regardless of status — to help protect immigrant Long Islanders and New Yorkers from a rabid xenophobic agenda.

If passed by the legislature in 2019, the bill will have the favor of Gov. Cuomo’s pen, according to both his legal counsel and his spokesperson. The bill is sponsored by New York City legislators Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and Senator Luis Sepulveda and will be pushed forward by advocates next year in a holistic legislative front.

With expanded access to driver’s licenses, the arrests and detentions can be prevented for immigrants like Felipe Iñiguez, the Central Islip Ecuadorian immigrant who was recently stopped by police for a broken headlight and subsequently handed over into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then, immigrant families can move toward living without the constant fear of having their loved ones taken away from them.

Steven Choi, Executive Director the New York Immigration Coalition, issued the following statement:

“The Governor and New York’s elected leaders just spent the entire campaign season pledging to fight for immigrant New Yorkers.  Now it’s time to put their money where their mouth is. We need to expand driver’s licenses for all, invest and protect in services and programs to keep our communities strong, and make sure New York is truly the living counter-example to Trump’s United States of hate.”

Additionally, driver’s licenses for all would benefit the state — and its drivers — as a whole.

Expanding access to driver’s licenses would bring in an estimated $57 million in annual state and county revenue in registration fees, sales taxes, and gas taxes; plus $26 million in one-time revenues as more people obtain licenses, buy cars, and register vehicles.

It would also be a boon for public transportation, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) receiving an additional $8.6 million in annual revenue from New York City, Long Island, and Lower Hudson surcharges to car registration, gas tax, and sales tax, as well as $2.2 million in one-time revenue from the driver’s licenses surcharge. Existing drivers would enjoy a cost savings of $17 per year on their auto insurances, as more drivers sign up for licenses.