The Independent was one of the first publications in the state to support the proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses, and we applaud all of the East End publications that did likewise.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has already signed the bill into law and registration can begin in December – bravo.
We are a bit surprised at some of the pushback, because the law is so firmly cemented in common sense that it would seem a no-brainer. Everyone benefits.
Most importantly, it is the humane thing to do. Regardless of how they got here, immigrants are finding work and plenty of it. Asking them to walk to and from jobs seems cruel; our public transportation system out here is basically non-existent. This is why so many are forced to get behind the wheel of a vehicle without the proper qualifications, knowledge, or insurance.
The new law changes that. It will allow undocumented workers to obtain a license the same way we all do: by passing written and driving tests. Insurance and registration will be required to put a vehicle on the road. That means fewer accidents, fewer injuries, and fewer insurance claims.
Any immigrant who lives in New York without legal status will have to prove their age and identity with valid, foreign-issued documents.
The bill basically passed along party lines, with most Democrats in favor. Some dissidents expressed fear that the new document would allow the undocumented worker a path to the election booth. However, if driver’s license applicants are also registering to vote, they have to sign an affidavit certifying they are a citizen. If they lie, they face a penalty of up to $5000 and up to four years in prison.
There are also fears federal immigration officials will find it easier to locate undocumented workers for the purpose of deportation, but proponents don’t expect a significant difference unless there is a policy shift in Washington, D.C. The bottom line is if you don’t break the law, deportation likely won’t come into play, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle is a deportation trigger.
It is important to accept the fact that there are two different issues at play here: There are millions of illegal immigrants in the country, and an argument can be made that the problems caused can only be reversed by aggressive deportation.
Conversely, since that clearly isn’t happening, allowing the immigrants to improve their plights while making our roads safer and our courts more effective makes it that much easier to cope with the issue.
There may come a day when our paths all intersect, and we become one people of many nationalities. There may come difficult times when federal policy becomes isolationist and deportation more aggressive. That will be decided in the voting booths across America.