Drivers’ Licenses for Illegal Aliens – Law Takes Effect in New York, Passes in New Jersey
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | December 2019
The reckless and lawless policy of allowing illegal aliens to receive drivers’ licenses advanced again in two more states in recent days. In New York, the so-called Green Light bill took effect despite court challenges. And, in New Jersey, the state legislature just passed legislation to give illegal aliens drivers’ licenses.
The so-called Green Light Law, Assembly Bill (AB) 3675, which authorized drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens, passed in June. This despite polls showing a clear majority of New Yorkers opposed it. On December 14, the law took effect and illegal aliens could start applying for licenses.
Many county clerks, who are responsible for issuing drivers’ licenses, opposed the bill. The clerks told their employees that they were unprepared and inadequately equipped or trained by the state to provide drivers’ licenses to those illegally in the country because they were unfamiliar with the foreign identity documents they would need to review.
When their concerns went unheeded, lawsuits were filed in state court by Niagara County and in federal court by Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns and Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola. The lawsuits argued the state law violated the U.S. Constitution by usurping federal supremacy over immigration. The suits also contended the “Green Light Law” was preempted by federal law. Two federal judges dismissed the lawsuits by the Erie and Rensselaer county clerks on grounds that they lacked standing to sue. The clerks have vowed to appeal. Niagara County’s state-court suit remains pending while the judge decides whether to allow a plaintiff to be added.
On December 16, the first business day that illegal aliens could apply for drivers’ licenses, lines of applicants wrapped around the block, and there were wait times upwards of six hours. It is evident that many illegal aliens would be taking advantage of this new benefit provided by New York. Moreover, it will likely be a magnet for even more illegal immigration into the state, including dangerous criminals and possible terrorists who are seeking to exploit the law’s protections from immigration enforcement.
On the day the law was effective, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press secretary said the law “will protect criminals at the expense of law-abiding New York residents.”
In New Jersey, bills to provide illegal aliens with drivers’ licenses, which hadn’t moved for more than a year because of elections, were rammed through after the elections just before the legislative session adjourned.
Senate Bill (SB) 3229 sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Assembly Bill (AB) 4743 by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) were both introduced on December 3, 2018. The Assembly Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the bill on December 9, 2019. An opponent of the bill, REAL ID expert Brian Zimmer, testified the bill would invite fraud and be a magnet for illegal alien criminals and terrorists seeking to conceal their true identities.
Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Hunterdon/Somerset/Warren) railed against the bill in Committee because it “confers privileges on those who have willfully and knowingly violated our laws.” Additionally, he opposed the legislation because there was no way to ensure that illegal aliens who are not legally permitted to vote do not register to vote.
The Senate Transportation committee held a hearing on its bill SB 3229 on December 12. The hearing room was flooded by open borders proponents. The committee Chair Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) gave the proponents more than two hours to testify, while opponents received roughly twenty minutes total to offer counter arguments
FAIR staff testified against the Senate bill, as did Angel Family member Ray Herr (who lost his nephew to an illegal-alien drunk driver in 2011), Michele Talamo of Citizens for Positive Change NJ, Reverend Greg Quinlan of the Center for Garden State Families (who spoke primarily about the risks from the bill increasing human trafficking), and New Jersey Republican Party Chairman Doug Steinhardt. Hunterdon County Sheriff Fred Brown (R) could not be present but submitted written testimony opposing the bill.
The bill passed both chambers on December 16. The Assembly voted 43-20 in favor of granting drivers’ licenses to those illegally in the country and the Senate voted 21-17. All Republican lawmakers opposed the legislation. In the Assembly, five Democrats joined the Republicans to oppose the legislation. In the Senate, two Democrats opposed providing drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, Dawn Addiego (D-Burlington/Atlantic) and former New Jersey State Police Acting Superintendent Fred Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). Additionally, five Democrat assembly members and two Democrat senators abstained or were not present for the vote.
The bill will now be sent to Governor Phil Murphy (D). He is certainto sign it, as he campaigned on turning New Jersey into a sanctuary state and has been demanding the legislature pass the bills to provide drivers’ licenses to illegals for months, calling it a “no-brainer.”
Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex/Warren/Morris) said, “I think that public officials made it clear they want this to be a sanctuary state, and I think that you’ve come up with driver’s license for illegals, you’ve come up with legal fees for illegals, college for illegals. I think you’re clearly sending a message that this is a good place for them to come[.]”
The law will not take effect for thirteen months, allowing time for possible legal challenges. It also authorizes the state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to adopt administrative rules for its implementation, which under the New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act requires a period of public notice and comment. This provides another opportunity to voice concerns with granting drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens.