Quijano wants to allow unauthorized immigrant driver’s licenses

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) said she will reintroduce her New Jersey Safe and Responsible Drivers Act bill, which would provide driver’s licenses for residents who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States.

Quijano said the bill language will be tweaked, but the end goal will be the same.

Gov. Chris Christie, who threatened to veto the bill if it reached his desk, said to have such a law on the books “is not only irresponsible, but dangerous.”

“The purpose of this bill is to enhance road safety by ensuring that all drivers are properly tested and licensed, and are driving vehicles that are registered and insured,” said Quijano.

Quijano said she has been working with advocates, and will meet with members of Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s transition team to craft a bill that addresses the needs and concerns of all involved.

Quijano’s original proposal, which is modeled on a California law that was approved by federal officials, will be the foundation for the final bill sent to Murphy’s desk.

Two years ago, driving got less stressful for 850,000 Californians who received driver’s licenses through a landmark state law meant to help immigrants living in the country illegally become more integrated into society.

Over the last decade, California has taken several steps to bring immigrants without legal status into the mainstream, including healthcare for the young and financial aid for college students, but none of them has changed lives so profoundly and quickly as the driver’s licenses.

“I look forward to finally having a partner in the Governor’s Office who understands the importance of solving this critical issue,” said Quijano. “We will work together to ensure that we write the best legislation for the people of New Jersey.”

According to research conducted by AAA, unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to be in a fatal crash and nearly 10 times more likely to leave an accident scene as licensed drivers.

“We all benefit from having people on the road who are registered and insured,” said Quijano, who first introduced her driver’s license proposal for unauthorized immigrants in 2015. “A serious car accident with an uninsured driver can make a bad situation worse. Ensuring that all New Jersey drivers are knowledgeable of traffic laws, have been tested for driving ability and are insured can help reduce fatal road accidents and decrease the number of uninsured motorists that flee from accident scenes.

Quijano said she will pre-file the bill so that it is ready when the new legislative session begins in January, and will work with Assembly leadership to move it.

“This is a safety issue,” said Quijano. “There are more than 500,000 undocumented residents in New Jersey. Having large segments of our population living in the shadows is not productive.”

Licensing eligible New Jerseyans would also help make communities safer by improving relations between immigrant communities and law enforcement, said Quijano.

“We know that many in the undocumented community are fearful of law enforcement, which is not good for residents or the police,” said Quijano. “This would help break some of that fear and build trust so that residents feel more comfortable reporting accidents or crimes.”

While the language is still being fine-tuned, Quijano said the bill (A-868) will require the Motor Vehicle Commission to issue a driver’s license to a person who satisfies the requirements for the issuance of a basic driver’s license but cannot prove lawful presence in the United States.

In addition, any personal information collected would be subject to the same disclosure restrictions that apply to personal information collected from applicants for driver’s licenses. Under the bill, this information would not to be considered a public record and would not to be disclosed to any federal, state, or local governmental entity without probable cause or a valid warrant.

The practice of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants became a legislative priority after federal action thrust it into states’ laps under a deadline to comply with Real ID, a law signed by President George W. Bush that was aimed at tightening license restrictions.

At least 12 states allow unauthorized immigrants to drive.

 


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