CIANA Intern Henry Cornejo participating in a Green Light Action in Astoria, NY, March 2019. Photo: Maria Eliades
Cheers erupted in the New York State Senate after the long battle to secure licenses for undocumented immigrants in New York was finally won. On June 17th, 2019, New York became the 13th state to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. The victory of the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act, more commonly known as the Green Light NY Bill, fulfils Governor Andrew Cuomo’s November 2018 promise that the bill would pass in the 2019 legislative session. The bill, which has been years in the making, puts New York on par with 12 other states that had already granted the right to a driver’s licence to immigrants regardless of status.
CIANA found itself at the forefront of the charge for the bill as a part of the Green Light NY: Driving Together campaign, which brought together a statewide coalition of organizations and partners fighting for the rights of all New Yorkers through online and offline actions.
With the enactment of this bill, New Yorkers will see several changes go into effect that will bolster the economy as well as make streets safer. Read on to learn about all the changes the Green Light bill initiates and how it will impact your day-to-day life in New York.
What the Bill Does Not Mean
Undocumented Drivers will NOT be able to register to vote with these licenses
Voter registration still requires each registrant to sign an affidavit confirming their status as a citizen.
The Department of Motor Vehicles is NOT allowed to give out information about documented or undoumented drivers to ICE, INS, or any other immigration enforcement agency.
The DMV can still provide this information to law enforcement agencies outside of immigration-related services.
What the Bill Means
With the Green Light Bill in place, license applicants will no longer have to prove they are legally in the U.S. and cannot be asked about their immigration status during their application.
Applicants will still need to show proof of age and identity, but the list of acceptable documents has been expanded to include:
Foreign Passports (previously foreign passports were only acceptable with a valid visa)
Foreign Driver’s License (expired foreign licenses can be used as long as they are not more than two years out of date.)
Government revenue will increase by an estimated $83.9 million over the first three years due to increased accessibility of higher paying jobs and increased travel that will pour more money into the New York state economy.
Roads will be safer as all drivers will have been trained and tested on road safety and rules prior to driving.
When Does the Bill Go in Effect?
Since the bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 17, 2019, the state of New York has 180 days before the law will take full effect, meaning it is possible that all immigrants can have licenses beginning in December. CIANA will keep you posted on the roll out of this law and any updates that occur along the way.