April 30, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
New York State Assembly Member Catalina Cruz is trying to rally support for legislation that would provide undocumented immigrants with the ability to a get a driver’s license.
Cruz, who wrote an op-ed in the NY Daily News Monday, is a co-sponsor of The Drivers License Access and Privacy Act, a bill that has been introduced in both the Assembly and state Senate that would grant undocumented immigrants with the right to be able to get a driver’s license.
“Being denied the right to apply for a driver’s license merely based on immigration status alone creates unnecessary boundaries for families to thrive,” Cruz, who represents Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona, wrote in a the op-ed.
“For undocumented immigrants, it makes an already difficult life, even more difficult,” she said.
Cruz wrote that she saw first hand the problems the lack of access to a license created. Her mother, who was an undocumented immigrant for 10 years after leaving Colombia, had difficulty getting to jobs in many transit-barren areas of Queens. She said her inability to drive caused hardship.
“It’s time that we take a humane and common-sense approach to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to opportunity. It’s time for driver’s licenses for all,” she wrote.
The bill was introduced in both the assembly and senate in January and is currently in their respective transportation committee.
The number of uninsured drivers on the road would decrease should undocumented immigrants be given the right to drive, Cruz said. It would ensure, she said, that more drivers are properly registered and regulated.
The additional issuance of driver’s licenses would also generate an additional $57 million in revenue for state and county governments, according to the immigrant rights advocacy group New York Immigration Coalition.
The group also noted that the average insurance premium for New York drivers would also drop by $17 per person per year should the undocumented population get insurance.
Cruz said that the Assembly has been holding briefings in recent weeks to address the concerns that some legislators have and inform them of the bill’s goal.
Cruz said she is speaking publicly about her story as she tries to get more Assembly and Senate members on board.
“This bill will lead to safer roads, more registered and insured drivers, increase state funds, and allow immigrants to drive without fear of getting deported for getting pulled over,” Cruz told the Jackson Heights Post.
Twelve states, including California and even more politically conservative states such as Utah, have passed similar legislation.
Cruz said that the issue is not just a partisan issue and that many Democrats still don’t support the bill. Many believe that people who are in the United States illegally should not be allowed such rights.
“We’re not looking for a free pass — we just want to have the same ability to apply for a driver’s license after passing road safety and proficiency exams to become qualified and eligible, just like everyone else,” she wrote.