Nearly 1,400 Public Comments Submitted To The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission On Proposed Regulations To Expand Access To Driver’s Licenses 

Nearly 1,400 Public Comments Submitted To The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission On Proposed Regulations To Expand Access To Driver’s Licenses 

 

Proposed Regulations Must Carry Out the Intent of the Law To Expand Access For All Residents Regardless of Immigration Status

 

NEW JERSEY (Monday, September 21st, 2020)– Nearly 1,400 public comments have been submitted to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) on proposed regulations to implement A4743/S3229.  The law is intended to expand access to driver’s licenses to more New Jersey residents, regardless of immigration status, making New Jersey the 15th state to do so. The public outcry and response are due to the proposed regulations imposing excessive barriers for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents, leaving more than half of those the law intends to benefit without access to a standard driver’s license.

 

Specifically, the proposed regulations require a proof of ineligibility for a Social Security Number (SSN) in the form of a letter from the federal Social Security Agency (SSA), that could discourage many immigrants without immigration status from accessing the driver’s licenses.  However, the statute does not require an ineligibility letter from the SSA. Advocates are urging the MVC to instead permit an applicant to attest to their ineligibility for an SSN, a practice already in place in other states that have expanded access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status, including California and New York.

 

Maneesha Kelkar, Interim Director of New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice said,

“After decades of advocacy for this legislation, last year New Jersey passed the landmark law to expand access to driver’s licenses to all residents with the support of MVC Chief Sue Fulton, Governor Murphy, and legislative leadership. We need to make sure the regulations live up to that promise and allow every qualified New Jerseyan to get tested and trained to drive.”

 

Carla Cortes, a member of Make the Road New Jersey said, 

“Make the Road NJ members submitted personal stories and comments to the MVC because the proposed regulations from the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) would prevent immigrants, like me, from obtaining a driver’s license. I urge that the MVC review all the comments sent in by community members and expand the regulations to ensure that ALL New Jerseyans have access to a driver’s license.”

 

Alejandra Sorto, Campaign Strategist with ACLU-NJ, said,

“The passage in 2019 of A.4743/S.3229, a legislation that expands access to driver’s licenses to all qualified New Jerseyans regardless of immigration status, marked an important step in our path to building a more inclusive and equitable state. As we move towards the implementation of this historic law, the NJ Motor Vehicles Commission (MVC) has proposed regulations that would create unnecessary barriers and impede access for thousands of the same residents it intended to benefit. We urge the MVC to update the regulations so that all eligible residents have improved access to a driver’s license and thus ensure that this law lives up to its promise.”

 

Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, said,

“Instead of creating unnecessary obstacles to driver’s licenses, the Motor Vehicle Commission should consider the challenges faced by potential applicants, including a hostile national climate toward immigrants and a global public health emergency. Removing barriers to driver’s licenses will make it safer for New Jersey’s families to get to work, improve the economic security of new drivers, and strengthen the state’s recovery from the current crisis.”

 

Additionally, advocates call for the inclusion of documents as points of identifications such as a municipal or county ID and Department of Corrections identification card. The addition of such documents would benefit those who are reentering their community after incarceration, survivors of violence, and homeless individuals.

 

Charlene Walker, Executive Director of Faith in New Jersey said,

“Our loved ones that have survived domestic violence, our justice impacted returning citizens, and many immigrant families are being denied the opportunity to thrive during a time when the world must truly love thy neighbor if the proposed MVC regulations are implemented. Faith in New Jersey urges the MVC to implement regulations that draw the circle wide enough to truly include those we fought and prayed to include with an expansion of approved documents as well as limited procedural or financial hurdles. In doing so, New Jersey will take a step towards building the beloved community; one of hope, opportunity, justice, and love.”

 

Gloria Elizabeth Blanco of Wind of the Spirit, Immigrant Resource Center said, 

“We call on the MVC to expand the list of documents that will be accepted in order to obtain a New Jersey driver’s license and permits that an applicant may attest to their ineligibility for an SSN, a practice already in place in California and New York. Without these changes in regulation, thousands of immigrant families will be left without access to a driver’s license.

 

“Immigrant working families need the opportunity to have access to a driver’s license. Going to a federal agency first before you can apply for a driver’s license makes the process for a driver’s license risky for immigrant families.”

 

Jon Tew, JD; Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy at Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers said,

“For our patients who are formerly incarcerated or face homelessness, the few forms of identification they do have are often insufficient to fulfill the current documentation requirements for state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards. This is a grave injustice to people who have served their time and are returning to their communities with the goal of restarting their lives. In order to make driver’s licenses and non-driver IDs truly accessible to the broadest array of eligible New Jersey residents, including formerly incarcerated individuals reentering society, the unhoused, low-income communities, and the undocumented, we recommend that the Commission expand the list of documents it will accept as identification.”

 

Across the state, communities are alarmed by the barriers posed by the proposed MVC regulations. In particular, many are concerned with the unnecessarily burdensome requirement for a letter of ineligibility for an SSN from the SSA, which would leave an estimated 300,000 residents without access to a standard driver’s license. For undocumented residents, sharing personal information with a federal agency is both daunting and risky, especially because it requires revealing one’s lack of immigration status to the federal government.

 

Ellen Lichtig with the Immigration Committee of the Greater Red Bank Women’s Initiative said,

“When A.4743/S.3229 was passed, it provided access to all eligible residents of NJ to apply for driver’s licenses. The regulations that the MVC is proposing destroys the aim of this legislation, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many in the undocumented community to access a standard driver’s license. These regulations must uphold the purpose of the legislation as passed. As allies of the undocumented community, we support allowing individuals to self-attest at the MVC when applying for a driver’s license.”

 

Katie Ingersoll, Organizer with South Jersey Mutual Aid Network, said,

“As a mutual aid network providing food and household goods to neighbors, we see every day the many barriers that are created to block people from the basic things they need. These proposed licensing regulations from the MVC will create another such obstacle. A driver’s license often means access to social programs, food banks, and transportation. Procedural rules like this drastically affect people’s ability to meet their needs and live a secure and dignified life, so we stand opposed to these rules that would block immigrants and other communities from access to ID.”

 

Judith Pack with Our Revolution Monmouth County said,

“Eliminate barriers! The recently passed driver’s licenses for all law (A4743/S3229) was a big step toward helping NJ residents access a driver’s license. It was the right thing to do from both a humane and practical standpoint. That is why it is difficult to understand the MVC’s proposed regulations requiring residents to provide a letter from a federal agency about their SS status, rather than simply indicate ineligibility at their local DMV.

 

“In addition, why not accept a variety of documents as proof of identity so survivors of violence, those who are formerly incarcerated, and people who are unhoused can more easily apply for a standard driver’s license or ID card?

 

“Stop placing barriers in the way of allowing access to driver’s licenses. This law passed because we all know it will contribute to a safer and more humane NJ.”

 

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About Let’s Drive NJ Coalition: Let’s Drive NJ brings together over eighty community, faith, labor, social service, and advocacy organizations to push to expand access to driver’s licenses in the Garden State. Too often, otherwise qualified drivers face barriers to obtaining a license — vulnerable populations like undocumented immigrants, survivors of violence, transgender individuals and senior citizens are particularly impacted. In December 2019, New Jersey became the 15th state to expand access to driver’s licenses to qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status. New Jersey joins fourteen other states and D.C that have implemented similar measures. It is expected New Jersey will see an increase in public safety, increase in revenues to state and local economies, and increase the well-being of all families – particularly the hundreds of thousands who will gain access to a driver’s license.

 

About Let’s Drive NJ Coalition: Let’s Drive NJ brings together over eighty community, faith, labor, social service, and advocacy organizations to push to expand access to driver’s licenses in the Garden State. Too often, otherwise qualified drivers face barriers to obtaining a license — vulnerable populations like undocumented immigrants, survivors of violence, transgender individuals and senior citizens are particularly impacted. In December 2019, New Jersey became the 15th state to expand access to driver’s licenses to qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status. New Jersey joins fourteen other states and D.C that have implemented similar measures. It is expected New Jersey will see an increase in public safety, increase in revenues to state and local economies, and increase the well-being of all families – particularly the hundreds of thousands who will gain access to a driver’s license.

 

www.letsdrivenj.org | facebook.com/letsdrivenj  | Twitter @LetsDriveNJ

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