Driver’s license activists shut down Newark traffic

Newark police arrested 18 activists Thursday as they blocked downtown traffic in a sit-in protest demanding that all residents — including undocumented immigrants — be eligible to receive driver’s licenses.

New Jersey lawmakers broke a promise to make residents eligible for driver licenses regardless of immigration status, so protesters are taking to the streets.

“We won’t stop until Craig Coughlin and Stephen Sweeney move the Driver’s licenses bill for a vote,” said Alejandro Jaramillo, of Rahway, who helped organize the protest with Close the Camps and Cosecha.

Those groups want New Jersey lawmakers to pass A4743, which would make residents eligible for driver licenses regardless of immigration status.

The legislation would enable applicants who pass all driving tests to receive a license without forcing them to provide immigration documentation, which is not relevant to the process.

More than one in five New Jersey residents is an immigrant, while nearly one in six is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

Of the two million foreign-born individuals who comprise 22.1 percent of the state’s population, New Jersey is home to more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants.

The ability to secure a driver’s license has far-reaching, critical implications across the Garden State ? from preventing abusive ICE raids to improving road safety to insuring drivers who cannot buy car insurance without a license, and impacts our economy, which depends on all business owners and workers, including the undocumented.

“Your family could be torn apart by a simple traffic stop,” said Andy Ratto of Close the Camps NYC. “Residents without immigration papers are already forced into the shadows, but they still have to work to support their families, they still sometimes get sick and have to go to hospital, like everyone else.”

“Driver’s licenses aren’t luxury goods. They’re necessities for people traveling to work and taking their children to school,” said Norma Morales of Cosecha. “For 18 years, New Jersey politicians have committed to — and failed — to stop this discrimination against immigrant families. Now is the time for our leaders make good on their promises.”

“We’re here because the immigrant community in New Jersey has been waiting 15 years for access to a driver’s license and enough is enough,” said This is one of the protesters participating in a peaceful blockade of a Newark intersection. “And we need the New Jersey legislature to pass this bill right now. This is a major reason why people are getting picked up by ICE, ending up deported and separated from their families.”

Thirteen U.S. states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. issue driver’s licenses regardless of a person’s immigration status.

Immigrant-led households in the state paid $13.1 billion in federal taxes and $6.5 billion in state and local taxes in 2014.

Undocumented immigrants in New Jersey paid an estimated $587.4 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $661.1 million if they could receive legal status.

DACA recipients in New Jersey paid an estimated $66 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

The inability to legally drive a motor vehicle is an incredible economic and social burden imposed upon those thousands of residents.

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