Currently, New York State bars hundreds of thousands of immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses due to their immigration status. Without licenses, they are unable to purchase, register, and insure their vehicles. Out of necessity, many drive without licenses, putting them at odds with law enforcement and increasing the risk that a routine traffic stop will result in arrest, detention, or even deportation.
"Too many people live in fear and the lack of a driver's license forces them to live a life in the shadows," says Juan Sanchez, a Craryville resident.
"Immigrants are an essential part of our community,” says Tiffany Garriga, Hudson Common Council Majority Leader and member of the HCDC. “Access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status is a step towards supporting our diversity as well as our safety.”
For 90 years, immigration status was not a factor in obtaining a New York driver’s license. In 2002, then-Governor George Pataki changed the law and required motorists to have a social security number in order to obtain a driver’s license—resulting in more than 150,000 drivers losing their licenses.
“Immigrants are people and we value them as we value ourselves. When we restrict their mobility, we restrict their ability to work and take care of their families," says Tiffany Martin Hamilton, Mayor of Hudson. “Providing qualified drivers access to licenses, regardless of their immigration status, promotes safety and honors our diversity.”
The Committee calls upon New York State to join 12 others, plus the District of Columbia, in allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. These 12 states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Washington. Typical requirements to obtain a license include proof of identity as well as proof of current residency in the state. These measures improve public safety by ensuring all drivers are properly licensed, informed of our traffic laws, and are operating a registered, inspected, and insured vehicle.
"For hundreds of years, New York has been a beacon to immigrants. We call on the state to reform the driver’s license law, using practical measures adopted by many other states,” says Michael Chameides, Chair of the HCDC. “Restricting mobility makes it more difficult for immigrants to contribute to our communities. We can do better."