My statement in support of the Green Light NY Initiative from April 2019 when this issue was being debated by the Cortland County Legislature. The end result was that the Legislature took not action for voice their official objection to the legislation.
As a Cortland County Legislator, I urge New York State to take immediate action to provide equal access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.
New York currently bars hundreds of thousands of immigrants in our state from obtaining driver's licenses due to their immigration status, including many who live and work here in Cortland County. As municipal elected officials, one of our primary concerns is ensuring public safety. Restoring access to drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants is key to achieving that goal.
Without access to licenses, many immigrants are unable to purchase, register, and insure their own vehicles. As a result, they face major barriers to meeting the most basic needs of day-to-day life: traveling to work, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and places of worship. Out of sheer necessity, many immigrants drive without licenses, putting them at odds with law enforcement, undermining trust between police and immigrant communities, and increasing the risk of a traffic violation.
In rural communities like Cortland, driving is a necessity, not a privilege. Most undocumented immigrants would like to comply with federal immigration law but there is no legal option available to them to adjust their status until Congressional reform is implemented. Undocumented immigrants contribute to all facets of New York life both socially and economically. Granting access to limited purpose driver’s licenses offer a practical solution that allows undocumented immigrants to comply with State law while the nation waits for reasonable and just federal immigration reform.
To be clear, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a path to voting rights, this is not a path to government benefits. This is just a path to a limited purpose driver’s license and the evidence from the 12 other states which have implemented this program bear out those facts.
Following the lead of these other states, such as our neighbors in Connecticut and Vermont, the time has come for New York to expand access to driver’s licenses to allow immigrant New Yorkers to fully understand traffic laws, pass a road test, and operate registered, inspected, and insured vehicles. Equal access to driver’s licenses will reduce the number of uninsured vehicles on the road, thereby lowering insurance premiums for all New York motorists, and make New York roads safer for all. Moreover, it will allow immigrant families to more fully participate in community life and contribute to economic growth in our state and in our community.