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In order to drive without fear

Por Mariel Fiori
September 2016
“New York currently bars hundreds of thousands of immigrants in our state from obtaining driver’s licenses due to to their immigration status. Without access to licenses, many immigrants are unable to purchase, register, and insure their own vehicles. As a result, they face major barriers to meeting the most basic needs of day-to-day life: traveling to work, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and places of worship. Out of sheer necessity, many immigrants drive without licenses, putting them at odds with law enforcement, undermining trust between police and immigrant communities, and increasing the risk that a routine traffic stop will result in arrest, detention, or even deportation” says the online petition Green Light NY, a state coalition to raise awareness in our legislators of the need to issue drivers licenses to everyone, regardless of their migratory status.

“Following the lead of other states”, the petition continues, “such as our neighbors in Connecticut and Vermont, the time has come for New York to expand access to driver’s licenses to allow more immigrant New Yorkers to fully understand traffic laws, pass a road test, and operate registered, inspected, and insured vehicles. Expanded immigrant access to driver’s licenses will reduce the number of uninsured vehicles on the road, thereby lowering insurance premiums for all New York motorists. Moreover, it will allow immigrant families to more fully participate in community life and contribute to economic growth in our state. With New York State currently in the process of redesigning its license policies to comply with the federal REAL ID Act by the 2018 deadline, now is the ideal moment to remove immigration status restrictions for driver’s licenses”.

For these reasons, the petition concludes that: “We, the undersigned, support the mission of Green Light NY: Driving Together! to ensure equal access to driver’s licenses for all residents of New York State, regardless of immigration status. Our coalition brings together immigrant communities, advocates, allies, and other stakeholders throughout the state to coordinate a unified driver’s license campaign. Together we urge New York lawmakers to give a green light to driver’s licenses for immigrants in our state!”
If you would like to sign this petition, please, follow this link.

Together, we can do it. “Really?” some may ask. Yes, really. Take for example what happened on August 8th thanks to the work of the members of this campaign: a resolution was passed in the city of Hudson, Columbia county, by the mayor and the Common Council with a unanimous vote in support of the access to a driver’s license for immigrants in New York. What will be the next municipality in support of a similar resolution? Despite that the city of Hudson does not have the authority to issue licenses, this is a very powerful gesture and sends a strong message to our representatives.

That small achievement would not have been possible if all those who attended the meetings had stayed home watching TV (and complaining about how bad they treat us precisely on TV). Those from the campaign, who have been organizing meetings on every corner of the state, proclain in their placards: “We are not one, we are not one hundred, we are millions, count us well!” Yes,we are many, but will they listen to us if we don’t go there where we can be heard? If we don’t vote? If we don’t get involved?

To get involved or find out more, here are a few links to the different groups that are daily seeking support for a cause more than just: Manejando juntos Hudson Valley y Catskills, Community Voices Heard, campaña Maneja Sin Miedo, and the state coalition Green Light NY. The members of these groups are all people from the community, the majority volunteers, of different origins and social status, some with driver’s licenses, many without, but all of them share the belief that: yes, together we can.

I invite you to participate in initiatives like this one to help better the life of our community, so that each individual’s American dream may soon be a reality for all.
Mariel Fiori
Managing Editor

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