NEW JERSEY – With less than 90 days remaining until the expected implementation of the landmark legislation expanding access to driver’s licenses for all qualified residents in New Jersey, immigrant communities are calling on Governor Murphy to address the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s (MVC) proposed regulations which could deter as many as 300,000 immigrants without status from applying for a license, the Let’s Drive NJ coalition said.
In September, 1,300 people submitted public comments to the MVC supporting the recommendations of the Let’s Drive NJ campaign. The proposed regulations would require undocumented immigrants who do not have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or a Social Security Number (SSN) to first get a letter of ineligibility from the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) before they can go to their local MVC agency to apply for a basic driver’s license. This is an additional and unnecessary requirement that could potentially put immigrant families and communities at risk and is not required by the legislation, the coalition said.
Additionally, the Let’s Drive NJ coalition urges the MVC to release public information on its roll-out plan for the new legislation, along with instructions on the process of applying for a standard driver’s license or state ID card. Immigrant communities have not received information on how to apply for driver’s licenses, despite the bill requiring the MVC to begin a public education campaign by June of this year. Immigrant communities continue to wait for a plan on how access to the standard driver’s license to be rolled out, what documents they should prepare, and how they can go about applying for a driver’s license or non-driver state ID card.
Advocates are calling on Governor Murphy to address the issues with the MVC’s proposed regulations with the same efficiency as he has used to address the backlogs and long lines at the MVC.
In response to the inaction from the MVC, impacted community members are asking Governor Murphy what his administration’s plan is to ensure that all residents who are eligible for a driver’s license can apply for one.
Anita, a Kindergarten assistant teacher, and a community member with the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) said, “I have been a resident of New Jersey for 18 years and raised my four children with my husband here. I work every day to support our home and need to be able to apply for a driver’s license. However, if I am required to obtain a letter from the Social Security Agency in order to do so I won’t be able to. It is dangerous for me and my family to share our information with a federal agency and risk having immigration at my door. Please consider that the SSA letter is not a requirement to apply for a driver’s license, thank you very much.”
Rosalba, Childcare worker, and a community member with LALDEF, “I am married with three children, two in college and one in high school. We are a mixed-status family. For my husband, myself, and our eldest son, we would prefer not to apply for a driver’s license if the Social Security ineligibility letter is a requirement because it would expose us to the risk of being separated from my other two children, who have documents. It would be very painful. “Through the years we have had a lot of difficulties for not having a driver’s license, my husband and son were victims of racism when they were detained by the police. Each one received six tickets for not having a driver’s license and they had to pay a lot of money. We know very well that the only opportunity to obtain a driver’s license after almost 20 years of living in New Jersey is now, but the obstacles do not end. We know that you can help us, the license is a tool for us, not a luxury. Thank you very much.”
Roberto R., Community Member with New Labor said, “My name is Roberto and I need a driver’s license. First, I need a license to mobilize myself, work, and provide for my family and take care of other family matters. Second, I want to abide by the laws. Third, it is an urgent necessity in my family if there are emergencies. Also, it is good to have to be able to help others in the community. Governor Murphy and MVC Chief Sue Fulton, please let this process be more flexible so we can mobilize ourselves and support our families. Thank you so much.”
Edgar Dominguez, Community Member with New Labor said, “The launch of the driver’s license law is less than three months away and we do not have a lot of answers. We need Governor Murphy and the MVC to be clear about what requirements are needed and to give community guidance, support, and education. We need the MVC to provide comprehensive regulations that will not hinder people from acquiring the license. One proposed regulation that must change is the requirement of the ineligibility letter from the SSA. Asking people to disclose their information to a federal administration is risky, and not everyone is eligible for an ITIN. We cannot put our hardworking community at risk; we must respect all workers and residents of New Jersey and allow them to apply with reasonable documents.”
Leonardo, a community member with CATA – The Farmworker Support Committee in Vineland, NJ said, “I’m asking the Governor of New Jersey to keep your promise of driver’s licenses for all. This is very essential in my life and with the current proposed regulations, there will be so many people that, under their current circumstances, won’t be able to fulfill the requirements. So, please modify these regulations to really expand the driver’s licenses.”
The Let’s Drive NJ coalition brings together over eighty community, faith, labor, social service, and advocacy organizations to push to expand access to driver’s licenses in the Garden State. Too often, otherwise qualified drivers face barriers to obtaining a license — vulnerable populations like undocumented immigrants, survivors of violence, low-income communities, transgender individuals and senior citizens are particularly impacted. In December 2019, New Jersey became the 15th state to expand access to driver’s licenses to qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status. New Jersey joins fourteen other states and D.C that have implemented similar measures. It is expected New Jersey will see an increase in public safety, increase in revenues to state and local economies, and increase the well-being of all families – particularly the hundreds of thousands who will gain access to a driver’s license.