Open-Borders Groups Push Drivers’ Licenses For Illegal Aliens in New Jersey, with Governor’s Support
By David Jaroslav | September 2019
Supporters of illegal aliens in New Jersey have been pushing for them to get drivers’ licenses for years. Especially after neighboring New York passed similar legislation in June—making it the 13th state to do so—that push has been aggressively back on in the Garden State, with Governor Phil Murphy (D) strongly in support. But with state legislative elections in November fast approaching, legislators seem divided, and the proposal might still be stopped.
Senate Bill (SB) 3229, sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) and its identical companion bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 4743, sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth) were introduced on December 3, 2018. The bills would:
- Make “standard” driver’s licenses available to illegal aliens, while licenses acceptable for federal purposes under the REAL ID Act would be available only to U.S. citizens and those with legal immigration status;
- Require two documents providing “satisfactory proof” that an applicant is a New Jersey resident to get a standard license, plus either a Social Security Number or an indication that the applicant cannot obtain a Social Security Number;
- Exempt documents and information used to apply for a standard license from public records laws, while requiring a subpoena or other court order to disclose them and make otherwise disclosing them a 4th degree felony (punishable by up to 18 months in state prison and up to a $10k fine);
- Declare possession of a standard license not to be evidence of immigration status and not a basis for “investigation, arrest, citation, prosecution, or detention”;
- Require the state driver’s manual to be published in, and the driving exam to be available in, the three other most commonly-used languages in the state, as determined by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), in addition to English;
- Direct the MVC to launch a public awareness campaign about these changes; and
- Create an advisory board regarding these changes, with appointed members who are unpaid but to be reimbursed for “necessary expenses.”
Gov. Murphy has backed the bills since their introduction, and indeed campaigned on the idea as a candidate in 2017. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) also says he supports the concept, though he has frequently clashed with Murphy over other issues. But “moderate” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) is in charge of state Democrats’ upcoming re-election efforts, and he has studiously avoided moving the bills or publicly taking a position on them, likely because as one observer noted, “they smack of controversy and potentially make his members easy targets for Republican attack ads.” Coughlin, it’s said, is “determined to say nothing” about the issue.
Open-borders groups like Let’s Drive NJ and others have repeatedly expressed anger that Coughlin might be deliberately stalling their bills, even confronting him outside his office. And they’ve held rallies across the state demanding that the legislature take them up—rallies the governor has enthusiastically voiced support for, most recently describing drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens as “a no-brainer” and telling supporters of the bills “to call your Assembly person or your senator and ask them why it is stuck and why it's not on the governor's desk, because I will sign it.“
Upon hearing the governor’s latest remarks, Speaker Coughlin is reported to have “gone ballistic” and been “inordinately pissed off” behind closed doors that Murphy continues to push the issue. Coughlin’s concerns are probably well-placed, as the bills have prompted plenty of opposition.
An online petition against the bills started by Republican state lawmakers has garnered over 21,000 signatures. Old Bridge Township in Coughlin’s own Middlesex County passed a resolution opposing the bills in June, with a speech by then-Democrat Councilman Mark Razzoli railing against benefits for illegal aliens going viral with over 2.1 million views.
And as if to specifically prove Coughlin’s fears right, former Montgomery Mayor Mark Caliguire (R), a challenger in the state’s 16th legislative district that again includes parts of the Speaker’s home county, recently called for the district’s incumbent assemblymen, Andrew Zwicker (D-Princeton) and Roy Frieman (D-Hillsborough), to sign a pledge to oppose the bills and never vote for them. Caliguire says “[o]nly in Phil Murphy’s New Jersey could you require legal citizens to provide six points of identification to get a driver license, and then turn around and give one to someone who cannot produce a single piece of identification that says they are even an American citizen[.]”
Some have speculated the bills might be put off until afterwards the November 5 elections, and then brought up in a lame-duck session where lawmakers would be less fearful of potential political fallout. The current legislature isn’t scheduled to adjourn until just before the new one convenes in mid-January of 2020. New Jerseyans will need to keep the pressure on the state capital in Trenton if they’re to have any chance of stopping these bills.