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Farmers Support Drivers’ Licenses for Undocumented People

By Liz Henderson, Member of NOFA-NY Board of Directors

NOFA-NY supports the passage of Assembly Bill A10273. This bill would create a limited-purpose state driver’s license accessible to residents regardless of their immigration status. The driver’s license would be marked “Not for Federal Purposes” (disallowing, for example, use in boarding a plane).

At the 2018 Annual Meeting, members of NOFA-NY voted overwhelmingly in favor of supporting legislation to allow undocumented residents of NYS to qualify for drivers’ licenses.
RESOLUTION: The members of NOFA-NY resolve that we support Green Light NY: Driving Together! to ensure equal access to driver’s licenses for all residents of New York State, regardless of immigration status, and urge New York lawmakers to give a green light to driver's licenses for immigrants in our state.



Green Light NY 1024x469Many NOFA farmer members work side by side with immigrants in our fields or work on farms started and owned by immigrants, and recognize the huge risk farm workers take every day when they drive without a license to work on farms. NOFA farmers want to be supportive of fellow land-workers, and appreciate that getting licenses has been a top priority among farm workers who initiated the Green Lights campaign. Without access to licenses, many immigrants are unable to purchase, register, and insure their own vehicles. As a result, they face major barriers to meeting the most basic needs of day-to-day life: traveling to work, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and places of worship. Out of sheer necessity, many immigrants drive without licenses, putting them at odds with law enforcement, undermining trust between police and immigrant communities, and increasing the risk that a routine traffic stop will result in arrest, detention, or even deportation.

Following the lead of other states, such as our neighbors in Connecticut and Vermont, expanding access to driver’s licenses will allow more immigrant New Yorkers to fully understand traffic laws, pass a road test, and operate registered, inspected, and insured vehicles. Expanded immigrant access to driver’s licenses will reduce the number of uninsured vehicles on the road; thereby, lowering insurance premiums for all New York motorists. About 572,000 undocumented immigrants over age 16 live in New York State, and about 250,000 of them are expected to become licensed if the bill passes. Their payments for auto insurance are calculated to reduce rates for everyone by $17 per insured.

The cost of creating and issuing these limited-purpose licenses will be more than covered by the fees collected. A 2017 analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that New York State and county governments would collect roughly $57 million in combined annual revenue in taxes and fees, plus a onetime gain of $26 million as a result of the law. New York State collects more than $1.1 billion each year in state and local taxes from undocumented immigrant workers, and these workers are responsible for $40 billion of New York’s economic output, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. Granting access to limited-purpose driver’s licenses is a practical solution that allows undocumented immigrants to comply with state law while the nation waits for reasonable and just federal immigration reform.

Perhaps most important, gaining drivers’ licenses will allow immigrant families to more fully participate in our communities, by contributing to our cultural life and economic growth of our state. Please urge your state legislators to support A10273 and to introduce a companion bill in the State Senate!

*** May 14, 2018, join the Mobilization Day in Albany to push for A 10273. Between 11 am and 1 pm, there will be a press conference to ask Assembly Members to co-sponsor and support the driver's license with legislative visits later in the day. For more details go to: ***

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