Driving Chris Crazy

New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) is an organization that says it “aims to create a New Jersey with a robust economy, where opportunity and prosperity are widely shared.”

One of the ways the organization proposes to share the opportunity and prosperity widely is to give the almost half million New Jersey undocumented immigrants who otherwise qualify the ability to obtain drivers licenses.

With the execrable transportation infrastructure in this state, having a drivers license opens up more job possibilities to people looking for work.

At a forum in Trenton yesterday, advocates discussed the advantages of allowing undocumented people to obtain licenses. Surely, it’s a no-brainer to prefer drivers to have passed the requisite written and behind-the-wheel tests and to carry the necessary insurance.

Johanna Calle

Johanna Calle

Kamal Essaheb, of the National Immigration Law Center, who came from Morocco, pointed out the success stories in the dozen U.S. states that already grant such licenses. In those states, insurance rates have generally gone down and public safety increased.

Johanna Calle of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice described the effort in the state legislature to add New Jersey to the list of states granting such licenses. The bill numbers are A868, sponsored by Assembly members Quijano, Gusciora, Mukherji, Schaer, Johnso, and Vanieri Huttle, and S292, sponsored by Senators Vitale, Cruz-Perez, and Ruiz.

These licenses would not look like regular drivers licenses and could not be used for most identification purposes. The state’s six-point documentation system, modified to allow certain foreign documents, would be used to verify identity to obtain the drivers license.

Several municipalities, police departments, and counties have already passed resolutions urging the legislature to take action on this issue.

Advocates of the bill recognize that it will be a hard sell, given the xenophobia rampant in government, and admit that even if it passes, chances of securing the governor’s signature are slim. But they hope that by demonstrating the economic and humanitarian benefits that other states have realized, it will just be a matter of time before New Jersey extends this privilege to the half-million undocumented adults living here.

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