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Assembly passes driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants; Hawley and Norris vote against it

Staff Reports Posted 12 June 2019 at 8:39 pm

The State Assembly has passed the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the Green Light Bill. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the legislation will create safer roads for all New Yorkers, boost the state’s economy and protect hardworking New Yorkers and their families.

“While opponents continue to spread misinformation and stoke fears about the bill’s intent and consequences, the Assembly Majority will continue to put the needs of New Yorkers first,” Heastie said. “The legislation passed today will promote public safety, protect our state’s economy and ensure every New Yorker can integrate into their community and care for their family. Making sure that every driver is trained, tested and insured will make New York’s roads safer for everyone and ensure that our industries have the labor they need to keep our economy moving.”

The Driver’s License and Privacy Act would expand the types of proof of identity that could be submitted with an application for a non-commercial driver’s license that does not meet federal standards for identification. An applicant without a Social Security Number could instead submit a signed affidavit that they have not been issued a Social Security Number.

Twelve states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license, many of which have reported fewer accidents and traffic fatalities, Heastie said in a news release.

A 2017 Stanford University study found that California’s law expanding access to drivers’ licenses led to a drop in hit-and-run accidents between seven and 10 percent, or approximately 4,000 fewer hit-and-run accidents, and saving not-at-fault drivers $3.5 million in out-of-pocket expenses for car repairs.

Today’s legislation would make everyday tasks such as getting to work, shopping for groceries or picking up kids from school vastly easier for an estimated 265,000 people in New York, including 64,000 north of New York City. The policy change would generate an estimated $57 million in combined government revenues that would recur annually, as well as a $26 million one-time boost in revenues as more people get licenses.

“What many people do not realize is that undocumented immigrants are already on the road, but they are doing so without a license or insurance. Safe roads mean every driver is properly licensed, informed of traffic laws, passes a driver’s test, and is operating a registered, inspected and insured vehicle,” said Transportation Committee Chairman William Magnarelli. “Today’s legislation will also allow police to verify motorist identity and review their traffic record. It is truly in the best interest of traffic safety for all New Yorkers.”

Two local Assembly members opposed the legislation.

“Being in the United States is a privilege, and having a driver’s license is something that should only be allowed for those who are here legally,” said Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport. “This bill to provide driver’s licenses to illegal undocumented immigrants poses a litany of serious concerns, especially in terms of law enforcement, voter fraud and licenses being used to purchase long gun firearms like shotguns or rifles. For these reasons, I proudly voted against the bill when it came up for a vote in the Assembly committee process and I will be voting no again on it today.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, issued this statement: “This sends a dangerous message to society – it’s acceptable to enter our country illegally and continue to break the law because you will be rewarded.

“Downstate politicians continue to peddle handouts and shortcuts for everyone but the middle class. Felons get pay raises, illegals get driver’s licenses and sex offenders get voting rights. Make no mistake, this is a step toward allowing illegals to vote in our elections.

“Recent polling shows the majority of the state opposes this radical proposal but New York City politicians are more concerned with scoring political points against President Trump than following public sentiment – a disgraceful day in Albany.”

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