Things That Matter

New Jersey’s Governor Says He’ll Sign Bill Allowing Undocumented Residents Access To Drivers Licenses

Undocumented migrants in the United States and other Global North countries make a significant contribution to the economy but they often are left out of key economic areas and industries. Among the most basic things that a worker needs to perform certain jobs is a drivers license. Without it job prospects in most industries are pretty limited. Distances in the United States, particularly in the middle of the country and states such as New Jersey tend to be vast and commuting by public transport is not always the best option, or even feasible. Working parents and other people caring for a family member (such as an ageing mother or father, or someone with a disability) often need to pack a lot of activities in a day, and using a car is the only possible way for them to be able to make ends meet. 

So a very possible change in New Jersey law would make a world of difference for undocumented migrants and their families. 

So yes, New Jersey might start providing drivers licenses to undocumented migrants, and this is great and a welcome development towards economic assimilation.

Credit: New Jersey Advanced Media

The New Jersey State Assembly Judiciary Committee held a hearing Monday at the Statehouse in Trenton to discuss the possibility of pro providing undocumented migrants with drivers licenses. As you can imagine, the issue has been quickly politicized and the Latino community has been lobbying for a positive outcome.

This is of course a highly contentious issue in a state that has swung from blue to red and blue again, and where factory workers, many of which are reticent to migration, are an important segment of the electorate. As explained by Assemblywoman Anette Quijano, D-Union” “We know this legislation will change thousands of lives in the Garden State, a state with both urban, suburban and rural communities that require residents to drive a car to get from point A to point B.”

Another key benefit of this bill is that it will make roads safer, as currently there are people driving without a license and without having passed a test that ensures that rules and sings are understood by everyone on the road. More than 30 people gave their testimony, and as reported by NJ.COM they “shared stories of the fear they face when seeing a cop in the rearview mirror, whether they are completing a mundane task like grocery shopping or attending a crucial doctors appointment. And how their paychecks go to fighting traffic tickets and court fees”. 

Chants of “Si, se puede!” and “Licensias si, promesas no!” were heard as the hearing was being held.

Credit: Trasport Topics

Advocates for the bill were as young as 9-years-old. David Cuautle, a young boy whose parents cannot drive him, spoke truth in his testimony: “I’m sick and tired of you guys making these promises for at least 18 years. Are you going to wait until I am 18 ? It’s been a long time. And you think this is rough? This is rough for everybody.”

The exclusion of migrants from key activities has a huge effect on their daily lives and also limits the prospects of their families for assimilation and for socioeconomic advancement. And David got a response that gives hope to those hoping that the bill will be passed: “David, you are absolutely right. And David, I’m sick and tired as well of promises not being kept.” These words were said by state Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-Burlington, a co-sponsor of the measure.

Opponents to the bill fear that having a license will allow undocumented migrants to vote (which fuels Trump’s conspiracy theory of “millions” of votes having been cast by undocumented migrants). They also claim that this measure could increase human trafficking, which also resonates with racial stereotypes pushed by conservatives. 

The measure is supported by the New Jersey governor, Democrat Phil Murphy.

Credit: MADD.org

The bill needs to go through three hurdles before coming into effect: the State Assembly, the State Senate and finally get signed by the governor, who has said that he will definitely sign it if it comes to him and he has the last word. But just how many people would be affected positively by the bill? About half a million, a huge number by all standards.

As NJ.COM reports: “There are more than 466,000 undocumented immigrants of driving age in New Jersey, according to a 2018 study by left-leaning think tank NJ Policy Perspective”. That is whole lot of people. The bill would also generate jobs and revenue for the roads and transport authorities. The bill has been on the cards for years, but hasn’t advanced this far before. There is hope but in policy everything can change in a minute. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com