Driver’s Licenses for New Jersey’s undocumented immigrants may have moved a step closer to reality. In a September interview on NJ 101.5, New Jersey’s Senate President Steve Sweeney endorsed the idea—which was integral in advancing any legislative measure. While Sweeney did not support any specific legislation, Nicholas Pugliese, staff writer for the Record’s Trenton Bureau, reported that the legislation at the center of the debate in Trenton is the New Jersey Safe and Responsible Driver Act. The legislation would amend the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code to provide for driver’s licenses “for New Jersey residents who cannot prove lawful permanent residence in the United States.”
According to the bill’s Summary, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission would be required to adopt regulations for the design of the driver’s license, with a notation that “Federal Limits Apply” on the front of the driver’s license “in the smallest font size contained on the license.” Further, the driver’s license would be required to include on the back, the statement “this card is not acceptable for official federal purposes. This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits.” Clearly, New Jersey is taking every practical measure to avoid a clash with federal immigration authorities should the legislation become law.
On the other hand, the legislation provides for protections for undocumented immigrants who would be issued a driver’s license under the legislation. The Summary notes that,
[a]ny personal information collected . . . is subject to the same disclosure restrictions that apply to personal information collected from applicants for driver’s licenses. In addition, this information is not to be considered a public record and is not to be disclosed to any federal, State, or local governmental entity without probable cause or a valid warrant. The bill also provides that a driver’s license issued under the provisions of the bill is not to be considered evidence of an individual’s citizenship or immigration status and is not to be used as a basis for an investigation, arrest, citation, or detention.
Moreover, the legislation prevents insurers from assigning a driver with a license under the New Jersey Safe and Responsible Driver Act to a rating tier based on the undocumented immigrant driver’s license and imposes criminal penalties for public officials who discriminate against a person holding an undocumented immigrant driver’s license.
The legislation was introduced to the New Jersey State Assembly on January 9, 2018. It was referred to the Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, where it has sat idle. If the legislation moves forward, it is expected that over 466,000 New Jersey immigrants will qualify for driving privileges, according to a September 2018 New Jersey Spotlight report.
The Norris McLaughlin Immigration Blog will keep you updated as the legislation works its way through Trenton’s politics.
To learn more or if you have any questions about this post or any other immigration matter, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.