Woodstockers filled the town meeting room on Comeau Drive, urging the Town Board to support state legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver licenses.
Before allowing them to speak, Supervisor Bill McKenna said at the January 8 meeting that an organized rallying effort was not needed because town advocacy for the bill has wide support among board members and law enforcement.
Drafting a resolution supporting the Driver License Access Privacy Act is such a “no-brainer” and has enough urgency, McKenna bypassed the normal step of running it by the newly formed Human Rights Commission. The Driver License Access Privacy Act, also known as Green Light NY, is making its way through the Assembly as Bill A10273 and the Senate as Bill S8680. The legislation allows anyone living in New York who passes the required tests to obtain a license regardless of immigration status.
Those who are undocumented would be eligible to obtain a standard driver license, which serves as identification and grants driver privileges. They would not be eligible for the newer Real ID or Enhanced ID. The Real ID meets federal standards and will be required in lieu of a passport to board domestic passenger flights next year. The Enhanced ID can be used in place of a passport to enter Canada and Mexico.
“I have a lot of friends around Woodstock. They don’t have an ID,” said Alba Giron, the town’s liaison to the Spanish-speaking community. “They’re afraid if they get stopped what will happen.”
Several noted that having an automobile is necessary and many people risk driving without a license to get to work or bring their children to doctor appointments or school functions. Allowing this segment of the population to be licensed makes the roads safer for everyone, they argue.
“I’m really pleased it’s even on the table and it’s being talked about,” said Salvadore Altamirano-Segura, vice chair of the town’s Human Rights Commission. “These communities are built for cars. We have public transportation but it’s limited. We are here. Immigrants are here. Let’s make it safe for everyone.”
Town Board members voiced support of the legislation. “They are our workforce in this town,” Councilman Lorin Rose said. “We need to help them out as much as we can.”
Councilman Reggie Earls said undocumented parents could safely attend school concerts and other events. “This does create more safety,” he said.
Prior to the 9/11 attacks, New Yorkers were able to obtain licenses regardless of immigration status. Political pressure and terrorism fears led to the requirement of a social security number. In 2007, Governor Eliot Spitzer tried to restore access through executive order, but rescinded it after Republican backlash.
The proposed legislation would allow license applicants to sign an affidavit stating they do not have a social security number.
McKenna said he is working with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill on the supporting resolution’s language and will introduce it at the January 15 business meeting.