Monday night, after a seriously shaky start, the New York State Senate, with a 33 to 29 vote, finally passed the “Green Light Bill.” The controversial measure allows undocumented immigrants to apply for and receive driver’s licenses.
Prior to the Green Light Bill’s passage on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wasn’t sold that the idea would go off without a hitch; Cuomo expressed worry that under the Trump Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), would use driver registration information to target undocumented immigrants for deportation. Cuomo reached out to the New York Attorney General’s office on the matter, and vowed not to sign the bill if the federal government would be able to access licensees’ personal information.
— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) June 17, 2019
A few hours later, apparently no longer concerned that the plan would pose a risk to immigrants, Cuomo signed the Green Light Bill into law.
Governor Cuomo signed the controversial “Green Light” bill late Monday night, which now allows undocumented immigrants to receive a driver’s license. https://t.co/PaCvsGrBBm
— FOX23News (@FOX23News) June 18, 2019
Unlike Cuomo, who appears to have adjusted his priorities, New York State Attorney General Letitia James supported the bill without qualification, and vowed to defend it should the need arise.
— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) June 17, 2019
This isn’t the first we’re hearing about undocumented immigrants and driver’s licenses. In 2007, then-Governor Eliot Spitzer issued an executive order directing state offices to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Under that order, applicants would not have been required to show legal immigration status, and would have been allowed to use foreign passports for identification. Spitzer’s order garnered much media attention, when, a month later, he altered it so that the licenses issued to undocumented immigrants would look different from typical licenses, and would deny holders access airplanes and federal buildings. Spitzer ultimately withdrew his order in the wake of public opposition to the plan – and shortly thereafter was caught up in his own troubles.
In addition to New York, 12 other states and Washington D.C. already allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Advocates for the policy point to economic advantages, such as toll and gas revenue, auto sales, insurance, and license and registration fees. Furthermore, the measure cuts down on uninsured motorists, which has implications for all drivers and pedestrians. More broadly, in a society in which driver’s licenses indicate lawful presence, licensees can more fully participate in the economy and the work force.
the green light bill was signed into NY last night. So many fought tirelessly for this for YEARS.
field workers can drive hrs to their jobs now, undocumented families can drive their kids to school. so much is safer for now, and my soul feels hopeful today
— (@bigpapa_beth) June 18, 2019
New York’s law will go into effect in 180 days, granting undocumented immigrants licenses starting this December.
12 states and Washington D.C. allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Listen to #NY1OffTopic to find out why that would matter so much in other parts of New York. https://t.co/2f5SBm0dR0 pic.twitter.com/ILc8Tuy2w3
— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) January 26, 2019
New York State, and in particular, New York City, has had a long history of immigrant-friendly legal policies. In fact, at a 1994 press conference, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said, “Some of the hardest-working and most productive people in this city are undocumented aliens. If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you’re one of the people who we want in this city. You’re somebody that we want to protect, and we want you to get out from under what is often a life of being like a fugitive, which is really unfair.” Sure, Rudy has significantly changed his tune since then, but plenty of New Yorkers still agree with his former sentiment.
[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.