There is a new bill making its way through the New Jersey Legislature that, if signed into law, would make New Jersey one of a select group of states to offer driving licenses to those who do not have lawful immigration status in the United States. The Bill, No. 2135, was introduced this past January (2014) and sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan. It revises New Jersey Statute 39:3-10 to authorize the Motor Vehicle Commission to issue driving privileges to applicants who reside in New Jersey but “who are unable to prove lawful citizenship in the United States.” The amendments provide that regulations be formulated to establish the type of documentation necessary for an individual to prove identity, proof of age, and New Jersey residency. Among the items listed include the following:
· A valid, unexpired consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship, or a valid, unexpired passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship;
· An original birth certificate, or other proof of age, as designated by the chief administrator;
· A home utility bill, lease or rental agreement, or other proof of New Jersey residence;
· A marriage license or divorce certificate;
· A foreign federal electoral photo cad issued on or after January 1, 1991;
· A foreign driver’s license;
· A United States Department of Homeland Security Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal;
· An official school or college transcript that includes the applicant’s date of birth or a foreign school record that is sealed and includes a photograph of the applicant at the age of the record was issued;
· A United States Department of Homeland Security Form I-20 or Form DS-2019;
· A deed or title to real property;
· A property tax bill or statement issued within the previous 12 months; or
· An income tax return.
Individuals will be required to surrender any driver licenses from any other jurisdiction. Additionally–and this is significant–it disqualifies any individual who has a criminal record within New Jersey or in any other state. There are also penalties for those who provide or furnish false documentation when applying for a driver’s license.
If this bill becomes law, it would go a long way in recognizing the problem of illegal immigration and constructing a sensible measure that allows the public to drive more safely until Congress can agree on a plan to reform the system. In the meantime, as long as politics keep stymying any efforts towards addressing the reality of illegal immigration, undocumented aliens will continue to drive on our roads, regardless of whether they are licensed or not. The license does not confer any immigration status upon them. That remains the same. However, it does allow the public to identify who is driving the vehicles on our roads. It also benefits undocumented aliens because it helps them drive with permission, gives them a legitimate form of identification, and prevents them from running afoul of our state’s statute that requires New Jersey residents to apply for a New Jersey license within sixty days of moving here. This type of legislation makes sense, as it is not open to applicants with criminal records, and only available to those aliens residing within the state of New Jersey. It would recognize those law-abiding individuals who, while not lawfully here according to our immigration laws, reside in this State just like the rest of us, and need to drive in order support themselves and their families, just as we all do.
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