New York moving to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants


“Yeah, I’m in favor,” said Roberto F., who once upon a time overstayed his visa, and is now the holder of a diplomatic visa. A car allowed him the mobility to look for jobs and find the one that matches his education and skills. His current employer helped process his G-visa. He just returned from a vacation in the Philippines.

New York City appears to be moving toward cementing its status as a Sanctuary City with a move to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants across the five boroughs.

According to a statement, Assemblyman Francisco Moya is preparing to introduce a new bill in the Assembly that would expand driver’s license privileges to undocumented immigrants living in New York State.

Currently, 12 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, grant drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, according to the campaign “Green Light NY: Driving Together,” spearheaded by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), and immigration advocates.

The campaign announced the fiscal costs and benefits of expanding access to driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers, without regard to immigration status. It said implementing the policy would allow 150,000 undocumented immigrants in New York City to receive the following benefits:

• Increased Economic Mobility for Families — The ability to legally drive will provide these New Yorkers with greater access to higher paying jobs, as well as strengthen families by making it easier for parents to drive their children to and from school.
• Increased Revenues Would Offset Program Costs — Up to $9.6 million in driver’s license fees would be gained by New York State. An additional $1.3 million would go to the MTA in license fees.
• Higher Auto Industry Sales — Sales in the auto industry would increase by 2.7 percent, generating tens of millions of new dollars for the state in registration and title fees, as well as vehicle and gasoline sales taxes.
• Lower Auto Insurance Premiums — According to a recent study, preventing immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses increases annual insurance expenditures for licensed drivers by $17.22 per person. Changing New York State policy would deliver savings to New York City’s 3.6 million licensed drivers in future years.
• Improvements in Public Safety — When all drivers learn the rules of the road and purchase insurance policies, the broader public benefits.

According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, revenues from expanding access to driver’s licenses, which would increase the number of people buying cars and purchasing licensing fees, would more than cover expenses to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The report details how greater access to driver’s licenses would create additional revenues for public transportation authorities and especially benefit state and county governments.

FPI’s report also finds that from Long Island to the Lower Hudson Valley to Western New York – all areas where cars are more necessary to own to access jobs and participate in the economy – the benefits of expanding driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants would help improve economic conditions for undocumented immigrants, be a net positive for the local economy, and would even add some to local budgets and the upstate regional transit authorities. Collectively, undocumented residents already pay about $1.1 billion in state and local taxes annually.

The Fiscal Policy Institute released its own key findings from expanding driver’s licenses in upstate New York:
• 265,000 people who would get driver’s licenses within three years, including 51,000 on Long Island, 53,000 in the Hudson Valley, and 11,000 in Northern and Western New York.
• $57 million in combined annual government revenues, plus $26 million more in one-time revenues.
• $28 million in annual revenues to New York State, $21 million to county governments, $8.6 million to the MTA (in addition to another $2.2 million in one-time revenue), and $288,000 to upstate mass transportation authorities.

“Granting licenses is not just a statement of our values – it’s practical because it makes our roads safer, brings immigrants out of the shadows, and saves everyone money,” said Stringer said. “It is, simply, the right thing to do.” – With Cristina DC Pastor

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