New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Passes Law Allowing Undocumented Immigrants to Obtain Driver’s Licenses
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy passed a law on December 19, 2019, that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
The legislation is to take effect starting January 1, 2021. The law creates two classes of licenses – one is the standard driver’s license and the second is the REAL ID, which can be used for federal security authentication. Immigrants who have entered the country illegally can only avail a standard driver’s license which can be used solely for driving-related needs. The law has made it clear that the driver’s license cannot be used to vote or for any other purpose as an identification document.
What Should Immigrants Do?
Any New Jersey resident who wishes to avail their driver’s license must show multiple forms of identification as well as utility proofs and bank statements. A revision was made to the bill before the legislators passed it that standard license applicants must provide one proof of residence rather than the two currently required. New Jersey uses the 6-point system of providing identification to get a traditional driver's license. The same point system applies to the new licenses as well. Residents who are found to be using fake or altered documents will be penalized with a fine of $500 and 60 days in county jail.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Issues Memo on Driving License Law
Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of DHS, sent a memo on December 31, 2019, to all the branches of homeland security, which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration on a department-wide study to check on the effect of the laws on the enforcement of issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Around 500,000 undocumented immigrants are estimated to be living in New York City. As per the Fiscal Policy Institute, an estimated 265,000 undocumented immigrants are expected to obtain driver’s licenses in the next three years. More than half of them are estimated to be in New York City.
New York’s law on issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants took effect on December 14, 2019. It became the 13th state to authorize driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. The Department of Motor Vehicles is prohibited from providing data to immigration enforcement agencies unless by the order of the Court. When the law took effect in New York, three federal agencies' access to the DMV database was cut off.
State officials and other state authorities in support of the law feel that it would improve road safety and lower the number of uninsured people. The opposition believes it is a measure that supports lawbreakers.