NEW YORK – Immigration advocates are celebrating this week as New York restored the right of all state residents to obtain a driver’s license, including undocumented immigrants.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, then-Gov. George Pataki issued an executive order requiring all driver’s license applicants to have a Social Security number. But on Monday, the Green Light New York law took effect, clearing the way for all drivers in the state to get a license regardless of immigration status. And the law prohibits Department of Motor Vehicle offices and county clerks from sharing personal information with immigration officials.
According to Yatziri Tovar, media specialist at Make the Road New York, the law will benefit an estimated 700,000 state residents.
“This means being able to drive to their children’s schools, to doctors appointments. This is a huge impact to immigrant families all over New York state,” Tovar said.
Twelve other states and Washington, D.C., allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. And on Monday, New Jersey passed a law similar to the Green Light New York law.
A federal lawsuit challenging the New York measure was dismissed last week, and one county clerk had threatened to post signs with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement tip line number at DMV offices. But Tovar saw no such implied threats at a DMV office in Queens.
“What we saw at the DMV were hundreds of people applying for a driver’s license and we saw that DMV staff were outside making sure that everyone had an application,” she said.
She added those seeking a driver’s license can file their application at any DMV office in the state.
Tovar said Make the Road New York is having a series of informational sessions in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County this week to help those who want to apply for a license access information about what is involved.
“To know what documents they need to bring to the DMV, what the process looks like,” she said. “And we’ll, even have a legal expert on site who will be able to answer any questions.”
The time and location of the information sessions are available at licensesNY.org.