New Jersey Sees Dramatic Increase in Driver’s Licenses after Permitting Undocumented Individuals to Apply
The state of New Jersey has seen a more than 60% increase in new driver’s licenses issued since May 1, as the new state law took effect law that permitted residents to obtain licenses regardless of immigration status. The Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) does not keep records of immigration status and thus could not confirm the cause of the increase. However, a rise of 100,000 total licenses issued over the past three months, from the typical 60,000 over the same period in previous years, is likely fueled in significant part by the new law.
Although more driver’s licenses have been issued, backlogs have also increased, with some people now waiting several weeks for appointments to receive their licenses. Immigrant rights activists have expressed frustration over the delay, with the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice stating that the “MVC had nearly 3 years of notice and more than enough time to engage advocates and the community to prepare.” The MVC has indicated that it plans to add personnel to its facilities to make more appointments available and increase awareness of online resources so that many people can avoid unnecessary in-person trips.
President Biden Aims to Expedite Asylum Processing
This week, the White House announced a broad new set of initiatives dedicated to streamlining the adjudication of asylum applications in the United States while also increasing the use of expedited removal of detained noncitizens while entering the United States without documentation.
The Biden administration stated that it had established a separate docket in the immigration court system to handle asylum applications to help manage the extensive backlog of cases throughout the United States. President Biden has also requested funding in next year’s budget for an additional 100 immigration judges and new support staff and asked for $15 million in funding to support pro bono legal services for immigrants facing removal proceedings. Meanwhile, President Biden has called to expand the expedited removal process, allowing immigration officers to order a noncitizen’s removal from the United States even before that person has seen a judge, coming within the larger stated goal of strengthening border security.
The Norris McLaughlin Immigration Law Blog, “Immigration Matters,” will continue to cover this story as Congress considers funding these new initiatives.
COVID-19 Border Restrictions to Remain in Place
The White House has delayed implementing a plan for a partial rescission of a policy instituted by the Trump administration following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that permitted border officials to summarily expel immigrants at the U.S./Mexico border in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus. President Biden cited the new dangers of the Delta variant as the reason for the delay.
President Biden is facing pressure on both sides of his party on this issue. Many Democrats have urged Biden to ease this policy, arguing that it prevents a proper review of whether immigrants have a legitimate claim to remain in the United States. California Democrat Judy Chu told Reuters news that “they’re just indiscriminately rejecting people and sending them back.” However, other Democrats, such as Henry Cuellar of Texas, have stated that the focus must be on the safety of border communities and stopping undocumented entry into the country.
The White House did not immediately make clear when it would revisit the policy.
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