June 6, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
City Council Member Robert Holden is speaking out against a controversial bill making its way through the state legislature that would grant 265,000 undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain a New York driver’s license.
“We are a nation of laws, and driving is not a right, it is a privilege,” Holden wrote on Facebook yesterday. “For the State to pass such legislation, which would only make New York a magnet for fraud, is dangerous and misguided. Rewarding individuals who broke our laws is political pandering, period.”
The proposed legislation, introduced in both the Senate and the Assembly in January, would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license without a social security number, as New York law currently requires. Applicants would need to present a foreign ID and pass a driving test. The bill would forbid the DMV from retaining application documents, as is standard with traditional license applications.
The bill, which passed through the Assembly Transportation Committee on Wednesday, will likely be brought to the Assembly floor for a vote next week, where it is expected to be passed.
But winning passage in the Senate is less certain as many Democrats upstate and on Long Island are hesitant in supporting the bill. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans steadfastly oppose the bill.
A Siena Research Institute poll conducted in March found that 61 percent of New York respondents opposed the idea.
While the bill has been hotly debated, the concept of allowing undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a driver’s license is not new to New York.
Prior to 9/11, undocumented immigrants in New York were able to obtain a license. And despite GOP members’ claims surrounding voter fraud, no such fraud was found in New York, or the 12 other states where similar legislation exists.
In February, Holden voted against a City Council resolution to support the state legislation, arguing that in New Mexico—one of the 12 states that currently allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses—there have been incidents of licenses being sold to residents of different states.
Holden left the City Council Immigration committee in April after calling the committee “all one-sided.”
Several Queens-based Democrats have voiced their support for the bill, namely State Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, one of the co-sponsors on the bill, citing the potential for increased road safety and regulation of drivers.
“This bill will lead to safer roads, more registered and insured drivers, increase state funds, and allow immigrants to drive without fear of getting deported for getting pulled over,” Cruz told the Jackson Heights Post in April.
In the 12 states, and District of Columbia, where similar legislation has been passed, there has been a drop in the number of hit-and-runs after undocumented immigrants were given the right to drive and get insurance.
If passed, the measure is also expected to bring in roughly $57 million in annual revenue, in addition to $26 million in one-time revenues from registration fees, according to a 2017 Fiscal Policy Institute Report.