June 07, 2019

Queens Community, Faith and Immigrant Leaders Unite for Driver’s Licenses for All

Flushing, NY — On Friday, June 7, 2019, the MinKwon Center, elected officials, and faith based organizations spoke on the need to pass the Green Light Bill in New York State before the legislative cycle ends in two weeks. The Green Light Bill would allow all people, regardless of their documentation status, to access a driver’s license, which is vital for people all across the city and state to go about their everyday lives. These immigrant drivers are also workers in our businesses and our farms, community members at our local churches and community centers, and our neighbors who keep NYS running. 12 other states have successfully implemented laws to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, and NYS needs to follow their example. By passing the Green Light Bill, all drivers will be properly tested and insured, making the roads safer for all and preventing families from being unfairly split apart when undocumented drivers are stopped on their way to work or dropping the kids off at school. We urge the State Legislature to take action and pass the Green Light Bill this year, which would impact over 754,000 undocumented immigrants in NYS.    



"Allowing Driver's Licenses for all is a win-win for all New Yorkers. It already exists in a dozen states and that number and momentum continues to grow because people understand it's the right thing to do,” stated John Park, Executive Director of MinKwon Center for Community Center. “The only thing that could torpedo the bill is if Senate leaders, like Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris in Queens, do not do what they must to ensure it gets on the Senate floor for a vote. Some Representatives are afraid to have to vote on this bill, because it reveals what they are willing to sacrifice, or not sacrifice, to do the right thing. If our representatives do not do what they must to represent all immigrants, then they don't get to be allowed to be our representative."


“I have sponsored the Green Light driver’s license legislation since it was first proposed in 2009. After a decade of waiting for the bill to be discussed in the Republican Senate, the Democrats are in the majority in the New York State Senate and now is the time to pass it,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “Undocumented individuals will be given an opportunity to obtain both a driver’s license and car insurance, allowing them to pay into a system that will make both drivers and pedestrians safer. People often need vehicles to get to their jobs, school or appointments. Increasing the insurance pool will keep costs low for everyone. The economy will benefit, as will safety. This is a win-win piece of legislation” 


"Drivers licenses for all would be a fair and smart policy for New York. I wholeheartedly support this proposal and encourage all my colleagues to get behind this proposal before the legislative session ends," said Senator Michael Gianaris.  


"The Green Light NY bill will make New York safer and provide a vital boost to the economy. Right now, millions of immigrants can't get a driver’s license and as a result can’t purchase insurance, making accidents more costly for everyone, including drivers who already have insurance. There has been a significant reduction in traffic fatalities following the passage of similar bills in other states across the country. I thank the MinKwon Center and all of our advocates for their hard work in support of this bill, and call on my colleagues in the legislature to pass this measure for the benefit of all New Yorkers,” said State Assembly Member Ron Kim.


“Driver's licenses for all is not only an issue that profoundly impacts my district, as well as all of Queens, but it is also one that has impacted me personally,” stated State Assembly Member Catalina Cruz. New York is one of the only liberal states that does not provide immigrants with the ability to obtain a driver's license. There are an estimated 570,000 undocumented immigrants living within the five boroughs of New York City. Not only does issuing licenses for those who are eligible to drive give people the opportunity for economic growth and opportunity, issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants is a fiscally and socially sound decision for all of the members of our community. Driver's licenses for all means vast improvements to road safety, lower auto insurance premiums, and generated revenue for both the DMV and MTA. It would create a massive boost to the auto industry, including sales, vehicle taxes, gas taxes, and registration and insurances fees paid directly to the state. In addition to these overall societal improvements, the benefits of licenses for undocumented immigrants and their families are immeasurable, and their quality of life will be vastly improved with a licensed driver in the home. We are not giving up the fight on this one. I strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to pass the Green Light Act now.”   


Crystal Walthall, Interim Executive Director at Faith in New York said, “Faith in New York, stands in solidarity with our immigrant sisters and brothers who stand in the gap of a moral crisis in nation.  Driver’s licenses were available to all residents of New York until 2002 and it is time to restore this right to all New Yorker’s regardless of their immigration status. As a faith-based community, we believe that all must be afforded human decency and be treated with dignity.  All New Yorkers should have access to transportation in order to take care of their families: to go to work, take relatives to medical visits, pick up children from school, and visit their houses of worship. These are basic rights for our families. Driver’s licenses will provide this, especially outside of New York City and create a safer New York. It’s time that New York State make the moral choice and ensure that all New Yorkers have the right to qualify for a driver’s license. We call upon the State Senate to have the moral courage to bring this bill to a vote now!”


"Issuing a driver’s license regardless of status will address the unstable circumstances of undocumented people, ensure road safety and convenience for all residents, and increase government revenue,” said Reverend Jineun Park, President of Wonkwang Community Service Center.

Reverend Won Tae Cho, Chairperson of Korean American Sanctuary Church Network stated, "It is hypocritical for New York State, which declares itself a sanctuary state, not to pass the Green Light Bill. The Green Light Bill should be implemented so that citizens of New York State can be proud of our state. Keeping immigrants in the clutches of illegality will destabilize society and repeat a vicious cycle. To guide the undocumented into a legal space is to promote genuine security."

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