RICE STATEMENT ON EXTENDING LICENSES TO UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS
“JUSTICE ISN’T A PIECEMEAL PROPOSITION”
Trenton – Senator Ronald L. Rice today issued the following statement on the scheduled December 16th full Senate vote to extend state driver’s licenses to immigrants without legal status:
“Having served as a state senator for 34 years, and as an elected official in Newark before that, I’ve seen a lot of hardship endured by men and women who can’t get their children to school or childcare, and themselves to job interviews or work, because they can’t obtain a license.
“Although I have some reservations about this new legislation, I would willingly overlook them for the greater good of helping immigrants get a secure foothold in our society, build a better life here in America and contribute to its success. I know that when any disadvantaged segment of our state advances, we all benefit.
“However, I cannot vote to support this bill unless and until similar bills that have been ignored in legislative committees are moved forward. As senator and chair of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, I have to come to a full stop today to ask: What explanation do I and my fellow caucus members give to our constituents who have been waiting for relief from similar bills that have been pending for months, if not years? How do we justify the fast-tracking of legislation that extends licenses for undocumented residents while similar bills for black, brown and poor citizens are obstructed? Is this a country where fairness prevails and justice is extended to all? Or do we have an America with citizens, non-citizens and second-class citizens?
“My colleagues and I have introduced legislation that addresses a host of inequities in our criminal justice system that rob marginalized citizens of any hope of being issued or reissued a driver’s license. We have written bills to allow low- and no-income wage earners to break free of an unfair surcharge practice that denies them any chance to regain their license. Other bills were authored to stop municipal courts from trapping offenders into a downward spiral that allows a simple traffic violation to snowball into insurmountable debt. The list of bills currently stuck in committees includes:
S-1080/A-5061. Concerns driver’s license suspension and restricted use driver’s license endorsement for certain crimes and offenses; removes automatic suspension for child support arrearages.
S-1275/A-1123. Clarifies procedures for restoration of driver’s license after suspension; authorizes the court to waive imprisonment under certain circumstances.
S-3332/A-1988. Establishes a program allowing certain applicants to perform community service in lieu of paying motor vehicle surcharges.
S-3424/A-5061. Provides that driver’s license may not be suspended on grounds of failure to pay child support unless obligor is given opportunity for court hearing.
A-4673. Provides for restricted use driver’s license as alternative for license suspension in municipal court.
“These bills, introduced by members of New Jersey’s black and Latino legislative caucuses and other lawmakers, have languished in a State House limbo, ignored and dismissed. It is an affront to all right-minded legislators. More importantly, it is an insulting injustice to the people of New Jersey, especially the people of color, the poor and single woman head of household residents most affected by these unfair laws and practices. Further, it is an indignity to state taxpayers whose millions of hard-earned dollars have funded training, education, rehabilitation and reentry programs for inmates who after paying their debt to society, are denied the very driver’s license that allows their fresh start in life.
“In the interest of social justice and equity in our state, my challenge to our legislative leadership is this: Move all the bills together, at once, immediately.
“Justice isn’t a piecemeal proposition. It is the foundation of our nation. As such, every resident in New Jersey deserves it. Therefore, I won’t use my vote to favor one group over another. Especially when ‘the other’ has been ignored for so long.
“I hope our legislative leadership will stop forgetting that even though we’re not all citizens, none of us – regardless of color, economic status, background or neighborhood – is a second-class citizen!”