NY Lawmakers Approve Law to Restore Right to Obtain a Driver’s License

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by Rick Pezzullo – 

The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, commonly known as the Green Light bill, which restores the right to obtain a license, regardless of immigration status, was approved by New York lawmakers last month.

The law existed prior to 2001 and was signed by Governor Cuomo shortly after the Senate narrowly approved the measure June 17, 33-29, one vote more than the minimum required.

“Today, we passed legislation restoring the right for all qualified drivers to obtain drivers’ licenses regardless of immigration status,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “By passing this needed legislation, we are growing our economy while at the same time making our roads safer. This is the right step forward for New York State as we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level.”

The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act (Green Light NY) will allow non-commercial driver’s license or learner’s permit applicants to be able to submit additional proofs of identity to be eligible for a non-Federal license. It also waives the social security number requirement if the applicant signs an affidavit that they have not been issued a social security number and provides the DMV with discretion to approve additional proofs of identity and age. Further, this legislation will protect the data of the applicants from unwarranted release.

This legislation provides additional government revenue, supports New York businesses and increases road safety. Statewide, the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates the legislation will result in $83.9 million in government revenues over the first three years and $6.4 million in recurring revenue thereafter.

In Connecticut, where a similar policy was implemented four years ago, there have been almost 4,000 fewer unlicensed driving convictions and hit-and-run crashes have dropped 9% between 2016 and 2018.

Twelve states and Washington, D.C., currently allow undocumented immigrants to drive. New Jersey is weighing a similar proposal. It is estimated in New York State there are more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants over the age of 16 who were barred from obtaining driver’s licenses as a result of their immigration status.

Neighbors Link, a Mount Kisco-based immigrant advocacy organization, issued a statement on the passage of the bill.

“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 Andrea Stewart-Cousins for showing the leadership required for bringing this to a vote and to all the elected officials who championed this bill.”

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