Democrats in the state Assembly passed a measure Wednesday that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Proponents celebrated the passage, but the proposal faces an uncertain future in the Senate as Dems in the upper chamber have yet to schedule the bill for a vote with five days left in the session.
Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said the bill “will bring hundreds of thousands of immigrants out from the shadows and make New York’s roads safer.”
Supporters say the so-called ‘Green Light’ bill would improve road safety in the state by making immigrants who drive take road tests and get insurance and annual vehicle inspections.
Twelve states plus the District of Columbia already allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. According to a report from the liberal Fiscal Policy Institute, more than 265,000 people would become eligible for licenses and the additional legal drivers would generate $57 million in annual revenue for the state.
Republicans blasted the bill, arguing that licenses should only be issued to citizens.
“New York Democrats have created a law to help people currently breaking the law,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) said in a statement. “It’s the irrational, backwards approach that has defined Albany’s legislative session all year.”
A Siena poll from this week found that 53% of New Yorkers oppose the bill and about 41% support it. That’s a drop in opposition from a March poll that found that 61% of voters were against the measure.
Assembly Speaker Heastie (D-Bronx) noted the proposal’s unpopularity as he championed the bill.
“While opponents continue to spread misinformation and stoke fears about the bill’s intent and consequences, the Assembly Majority will continue to put the needs of New Yorkers first,” Heastie said. “Making sure that every driver is trained, tested and insured will make New York’s roads safer for everyone and ensure that our industries have the labor they need to keep our economy moving.”
Approval in the Senate could prove difficult as some Democrats from more moderate suburban and upstate districts have steered clear of endorsing the legislation.
John Park, the executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, called on the Senate to bring it up for a vote.
“We need our Senators to stop hiding behind cowardly and blatantly false excuses and let the bill pass the finish line. If our Senate leaders do not represent all immigrants, they don’t deserve to continue representing us,” he said.
Gov. Cuomo has said he will sign the legislation if it passes.
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