Let’s Drive NJ: Expanding Access to Driver’s Licenses in NJ

Households Experiencing Homelessness One of Many Populations Standing to Benefit from Obtaining Identification

In their workshop on Immigrant Rights at the annual Anti-Poverty Summit, Deyanira Aldana and Brian Lozano discussed their work to pass a policy allowing vulnerable populations access to drivers licenses in the State of New Jersey.

Aldana, organizer, at Make the Road NJ; and Lozano, organizer, at Wind of the Spirit (Immigrant Resource Center) presented at the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey (APN)’s annual Poverty Summit on October 25, 2019.

The expansion of access to driver’s licenses would benefit a variety of populations including undocumented immigrants, including students, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, members of the LGBTQ community, veterans, the homeless population, domestic violence survivors, and recently incarcerated individuals who are re-entering the community.

For individuals experiencing homelessness, a standard NJ driver’s license can be the first step towards entering or re-entering the workforce, drive their children to and from school, get to doctors’ appointments and visit local stores to purchase necessities such as groceries and medicine. Those of us fortunate enough to being able to easily access a driver’ license in New Jersey may often take for granted the opportunities it affords us.

Let’s Drive NJ is an initiative bringing together advocates working towards expanding access to driver’s licenses for individuals who are qualified drivers that may face obstacles to obtaining their licenses.

“There is no good reason to not pass this commonsense policy that benefits both the state at-large and the immigrant community. It would be foolish of the state legislature to not pass a bill that has the potential to bring in $90 million to our state coffers, enhance immigrant trust in our state institutions, and have everyone tested, insured and registered on the road,” said Lozano.

“On a more humanitarian note, families are being separated every day by the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Research indicates that more than half of immigrants detained and eventually deported have no criminal history. Twenty-one percent (21%) of undocumented immigrants detained are detained as a result of minor traffic violations. Undocumented immigrants are humans and are inherently worthy of opportunity—opportunity to stay with their families, opportunity to contribute more fully to our society, and opportunity for growth.”

New Jersey’s public transportation system in often leaves something to be desired. Complaints about the lack of timeliness of trains and buses are common. Often people who rely on utilizing public transportation to get around have to plan an abundance of extra time to ensure they are on time for work, doctors’ appointments, and other commitments.

The ability to have a driver’s license can be very beneficial to all of these populations. A valid state identification, including a driver’s license, allows people increased access employment opportunities which can equate to increased economic security for families.

There are also collective benefits to opening access to driver’s licenses to vulnerable populations. These benefits include public safety, road safety, and an economic boost. The economic boost would occur as more people would be buying cars, car insurance, permits, and registration. The driver’s license only provides the legal ability to drive a vehicle and it is not a proof of citizenship or lawful status. There are federal limits for public benefits, work authorization, and cannot be used to enter federal buildings or to go on domestic flights.

Fourteen states have passed legislation expanding access to a standard drivers’s liscence. These states are: Utah, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Vermont, Washington DC, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington.

Interested in joining the advocacy efforts to expand access to a standard driver’s license in New Jersey? On, Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 10:30 a.m., there will be a March and Rally for Driver’s Licenses at Turning Point Methodist Church in Trenton. Please see the link below for more information.