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Undocumented Immigrants Can Now Apply for Driver’s Licenses Under New State Law

Undocumented immigrants line up outside the DMV in College Point this morning to apply for a license (Photo: Make The Road NY)

Dec. 16, 2019 By Allie Griffin

Undocumented immigrants can now apply for a driver’s license in New York state.

A new law went into effect today that allows 16-year-olds, no matter their immigration status, to apply for a driver’s license. The change stems from the passage of the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act that was signed into law in June.

State residents can apply for a license without having to provide a social security number and are able to meet licensing requirements through a combination of documents including foreign passports and a foreign driver’s license. Applicant must provide proof of their name and date of birth.

The driver’s license is no different from a standard New York driver’s license issued to a U.S. citizens or documented immigrants.

However, undocumented immigrants will not be able to receive a federal REAL ID license, which must be displayed to board a domestic flight or enter some secure federal buildings — unless a valid passport is shown — after Oct. 1, 2020 when the federal REAL ID Act takes effect.

After years of fighting for the new law — dubbed the Green Light law, many undocumented immigrants wasted no time and headed to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) facilities across the state today.

“People are waiting in line in the cold because they know that having a license will enable them to drive their kids to school, to the doctor and get to work efficiently, especially in places where there isn’t access to public transit,” said Yaritza Mendez, Associate Director of Organizing of Make the Road New York.

Outside the College Point DMV Monday, immigrants with the Make the Road New York organization chanted “Sí se pudo” (“We did it” ) and “Licencias para todos” (“Licenses for all”) as they celebrated in line Monday.

“What an incredible feeling it will be to finally have a license,” Fausto Jimenez, a member of Make the Road New York, said. “This will mean that I can finally drive my family where we need to go with the peace of mind that I won’t be stopped and torn away from the people I love.”

Supporters of the Green Light law say it will improve public safety by increasing the number of drivers with insurance and reducing hit-and-run accidents. They also argue that it will bring substantial economic benefits to the state including an estimated $57 million in annual revenue and play a critical role in keeping families together across the state.

However, opponents say the new law gives undocumented immigrants privileges that should only go to those in the country legally and some worry about fraud, as a foreign records can be used as documentation to obtain a state license.

New York joins 12 states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, which have similar policies in place.

Make the Road New York will host an information session about driver licenses at its Jackson Heights office, located at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave. on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

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