New Jersey legislators are considering a bill that would allow immigrants without legal status to get driver’s licenses.
On Monday, dozens of people testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill that would extend driver’s licenses to people who cannot prove they are in the country legally.
Supporters of immigrant communities have been campaigning for such legislation for years. They claim that allowing immigrants to drive allows them to work and lead productive lives.
License requirements are different in each state. Most states do not issue driver´s licenses unless an applicant is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. U.S. Citizens can present their certificate or citizenship or naturalization as proof of identity when applying while permanent residents can show their Green Cards as proof.
You can read: Immigrants claim New York driver’s licenses
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, thirteen states, including Delaware and New York, and the District of Columbia allow immigrants without legal status to obtain driver’s licenses.
These states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Washington, issue a license if an applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, a foreign passport, or a consular card and evidence of current residency in the state.
A 2018 study by the New Jersey Policy Perspective expert group estimated that some 466,000 undocumented residents would be of driving age in New Jersey.
Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, along with Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney, have declared that they support the measure.
The bill was passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a 4-2 vote, with all Democrats in favor and both Republicans against it.
As stated by the Center for American Progress, if the legislation is approved, then New Jersey would become the next state to offer driver’s licenses to undocumented people.
The legislation would create a two-level driver’s license system. A license would meet federal REAL ID requirements that include evidence of legal residence, while the standard license would allow people without legal status to get the document.
Applicants for standard driver’s licenses would have to demonstrate that they live in New Jersey, but would not have to prove their “lawful presence” in the country or reveal information about their immigration status.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) would not keep any of the documents used to apply for the standard license, and it would be a crime for an MVC employee to reveal any information to law enforcement “for the purpose of investigation, arrest, citation, prosecution, or detention related to an applicant’s citizenship or immigration.”