Jason Hopkins | Immigration and politics reporter
The New York Assembly on Wednesday passed legislation that would allow state residents who entered the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.
In a vote that fell along party lines, New York state representatives voted 86-50 in favor of the controversial “Green Light” bill, which would let illegal immigrants apply for a driver’s license with foreign documentation. Passage of the bill marks a major milestone for supporters. The legislation must now pass the Democratic-controlled state Senate, and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already signaled he would sign it into law.
“This legislation is in the best interest of the entire state of New York,” said state Rep. Marcos Crespo, the sponsor of the bill, according to the New York Post.
“It is more beneficial to communities outside the City of New York—where transportation is fully accessible in our neighborhoods as opposed to communities on Long Island and in upstate—there are clear economic gains for the state of New York, there are great revenues coming to our rural communities,” Crespo, a native of Puerto Rico who moved to New York as a child, went on.
If the bill becomes law, around 265,000 new people would be eligible to obtain driver’s licenses, generating nearly $60 million in revenue a year. Supporters believe letting illegal residents get these licenses would be an economic boon for the state, and make it safer for everyone on the roads.
“What many people do not realize is that undocumented immigrants are already on the road, but they are doing so without a license or insurance,” Democratic state Rep. Bill Magnarelli said Wednesday before the vote, according to Syracuse.com.
The bill, however, has also faced stiff opposition. Republicans in the state argue that it would open the door to voter fraud, identify theft, and bank fraud. One county clerk in the state vowed not to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, even if the bill becomes law.
“I feel that if this bill is passed, it will force my DMV employees and myself to be immigration authorities, which is a federal responsibility,” Oneida County Clerk Sandra DePerno said in a statement. (RELATED: Obama White House Deleted Online Speeches About The Immigration Crisis Hours Before Trump Entered Office: Report)
State residents do not appear to be totally on board with the idea of giving licenses to illegals. A survey released Monday by Siena College finds only 41% of New York voters in support of the bill, with 53% expressing opposition. A whopping 62% of voters living upstate said they opposed the legislation.
New York would become the 13th state to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses if the bill passes the state Senate and Cuomo signs it into law.
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