How driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants in NJ would work
A plan is moving forward to create a drivers license for unauthorized immigrants living in New Jersey and other people who can’t produce documentation proving who they are.
Update, August 2019: This article was originally published in late 2018, but as of summer 2019, the proposal for licenses remains in limbo.
Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano D-Union, and state Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex, calls for allowing New Jerseyans to either get a Real ID driver’s license that will permit individuals to board an airliner or enter a federal building, or what is being termed a “standard” license that would not require the standard "six points" of identifying documents.
This comes after months of discussions involving advocates for various immigrant groups.
The standard license that’s being proposed would require someone to present either a utility or cell phone bill or an apartment lease to “prove” they resided in New Jersey, but stricter types of identification would not be needed.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, has concerns about the measure.
"You’re basically giving licenses and identification to people who you’re not sure who they are. How do we prove who they are and why they’re here?" he said.
He said before we start handing out any kind of driver’s license to people who are living in New Jersey illegally, “you want Homeland Security out of Washington to clear any kind of new rule where you’re giving identification to people who are undocumented.”
Bramnick called this driver’s license plan a cop-out.
“There should be a path to citizenship. Congress is basically avoiding the responsibility for that, so what we really need is a legitimate path to citizenship. This is not the way to do it," he said.
“I have sympathy for the people who are here and worked here their whole life and raised their kids here — I get it. But I don’t want to do anything without Homeland Security in Washington clearing any policy in New Jersey.”
Under the measure, applicants for the standard driver’s license would need to pass a driving exam and get insurance if they were going to drive a vehicle. But it’s unclear how or whether this would be checked
The bill would require the driving exams be offered in English as well as the next three most popular languages in New Jersey.
The legislation also stipulates homeless people would not be required to pay the $18 fee for a standard driver’s license if they submit proof of a temporary residence through a social worker or coordinator of an emergency shelter.
Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly supported efforts to offer unauthorized immigrants an opportunity to get a legal driver’s license, stating such a move would make New Jersey roads safer.
New Jersey has been granted an extension to finalize its Real ID driver’s license program until Oct. 10, 2019, but Motor Vehicle Commission officials have indicated the program will be operational next spring.
The Real ID law, which requires all states to follow a strict identification protocol when issuing driver’s licenses, is being enforced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Calls to the Senate and Assembly sponsors of the legislation seeking comment about their bills were not answered Tuesday.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com