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Undocumented Immigrants will Receive NY Driver’s Licenses

NEW YORK, NY- A bill that would permit undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses passed in the State Assembly Wednesday.

Green Light NY, formally known as the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, passed by an 86-47 vote and now awaits a vote in the state Senate.

It’s unclear when that vote might take place as the legislative session ends June 19.

The bill would allow undocumented immigrants access to the “standard” license, one of three license types the federal government will unveil in October 2020.

Historically, undocumented residents in New York were allowed to have driver’s licenses if they passed the required tests and proved their residency. In 2001, former governor George Pataki reversed the measure via executive order.

Currently, only 12 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico allow undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses.

Supporters of the legislation launched a statewide lobbying effort this spring. At a rally held in Riverhead in March, more than a hundred people marched down Roanoke Avenue to Main Street and then east all the way to Route 58, ending at the Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot. Organizers said that allowing all New York residents, regardless of immigration status, access to driver’s licenses would improve public safety, provide a boost to the state’s economy and allow immigrants to navigate their communities without fear.

Data from the Fiscal Policy Institute suggests that 51,000 undocumented Long Islanders could be impacted by the bill and the state could recevie an estimated $57 million in new revenue.

Under the legislation, undocumented license applicants must pass a driving test and be made aware of traffic laws to help ensure they are operating registered, inspected and insured vehicles.

Increased fees generated from new licenses would continue to be earmarked for the dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust fund, which helps fix transportation infrastructure, officials said.

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) did not support the measure.

South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) cited public safety as his reason for supporting the bill. He also noted that public transportation isn’t widely available on the East End.