On February 4, the Massachusetts State Legislature will begin considering driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
In New York State, Senator Jose Peralta is about to introduce legislation in Albany to make this happen also.
We believe New York Governor Andrew Cuomo should act swiftly if the bill makes its way through the legislature and indeed, should be an advocate for it from day one.
“This legislation will also help make all New Yorkers safer by allowing us to identify everyone who drives on our roads and ensure that they are properly credentialed, educated and operating registered, inspected and insured vehicles,” Peralta said.
He also added that unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to be in accidents, and uninsured drivers are more likely to flee an accident scene.
In all, 11 states have either passed or are considering passing driver’s license bills that would allow the undocumented to operate a vehicle legally.
It is hardly rocket science to note that with 11 million or so undocumented in the country, the notion of a large percentage of them driving without a license is a scary thought.
Yet at the height of the anti-immigrant hysteria efforts in New York and elsewhere, measures to take that basic common sense step were opposed and eventually defeated.
It is a matter of grave concern for the Irish undocumented. Many of the men are employed in the construction field and need to travel lengthy distances to work every day.
The nature of their work also involves much coming and going to job sites and suppliers.
Until now some have survived using their Irish licenses, but that cannot last given the expiration date on such documents.
For Irish female undocumented, especially those married with children, the very necessary work of motherhood, dropping children to school and playdates and appointments has become a risk every time.
Nothing at all has been gained from preventing the undocumented having legal driving documents.
Much could be gained. “This legislation will also help make all New Yorkers safer by allowing us to identify everyone who drives on our roads and ensure that they are properly credentialed, educated and operating registered, inspected and insured vehicles,” Peralta said.
Obviously there needs to be safeguards. A criminal background check is necessary as well as proof that the person can pass a driving test.
The new head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has made a forceful call for undocumented to be allowed to become legal on national security grounds.
The new Homeland Security secretary said, “ An earned path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally is a matter of national security.”
He urged legislators to allow immigrants “to come out of the shadow, to be accountable, to participate in the American experience.”
Ending the driving license ban would be a good start.