New Jersey was scheduled to begin issuing driver’s licenses for immigrants without legal documents by the beginning of January 2021, but Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) officials announced there will be a delay due to the COVID pandemic.
MVC Remote Operations Due to COVID
Officials said that due to the pandemic, MVC agencies are closed, but did not mention when driver’s licenses would become available. The MVC has implemented many changes in the past few months, including shifting their transactions online. The demand for such services remains high, although the agency’s staffing has been reduced due to COVID.
“Status-neutral licensing is important for many New Jersians, but the demands on MVC due to COVID-19 have made it impossible for us to complete the training and software changes required to implement it,” said Sue Fulton, Chief Administrator of the MVC.
“We cannot conduct the necessary hands-on document training without violating COVID-19 restrictions; in addition, the stand-downs for training would impact our critical operations,” Fulton said. “We are hopeful that we will get past the worst of the pandemic in the next few months so we can get this done for those who sorely need it.”
In November, the MVC board had to postpone a special meeting on the new driver’s licenses and regulations. Hera Mir, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, urged the officials to keep the public informed about the licenses.
The Green Light Law
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses (the “Green Light law”), which was to go into effect on January 1, 2021. Two kinds of driver’s licenses will be issued: one compliant with the federal Real ID Act, which would let the license holders board domestic flights; and another that is a “standard driver’s license,” which is meant strictly for driving and cannot be used as an identity card for any other purpose. The latter will be issued to immigrants immaterial of their immigration status. Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
The MVC anticipates that this law will extend driving privileges to about 450,000 of New Jersey’s approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants. “The licenses affect us very much,” said Elias Rojop, who was born in Guatemala and moved to the United States 14 years ago. “We were enthusiastic that a door was opening, but this complicates our life more.”
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