Assemblymember Steck: Greenlight Makes Us Safer

“Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” Many of the people who founded this nation did not come here as legal immigrants.

“Today, immigrants are coming to this nation illegally for several reasons: to escape wars and dictatorships, to escape countries that have trapped them in dire poverty, and because American businesses and homeowners are willing to employ them. If not, they would not come here.

“Since it is undisputed that there are undocumented immigrants in this country, the question is how to we address that. Do we simply say they are here illegally and make sure they continue to hide in the shadows, or do we bring light to this problem and attempt to address it?

“There is a misunderstanding among many as to what “undocumented” means. Undocumented means they are here in New York without a visa. Under legislation just passed, they may apply for a drivers’ license, but they must provide the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with documentary proof of their identity from their home country.

“The idea that this is something new is incorrect. Before 2001, the DMV only required proof of identification and ability to drive. Further, undocumented immigrants frequently drive with a foreign license, just like Americans do when they travel abroad.

“Requiring all motorists to be licensed, regardless of immigrations status, promotes public safety. Licensing requires training in safe driving. Licensed drivers are also required to have auto insurance. Anyone who has ever been in an accident with an unlicensed driver will recognize the need for this legislation. If you are hit by an unlicensed uninsured driver, you will pay exorbitant costs to repair your vehicle. Your insurance company may raise your auto insurance premiums if you’re under or uninsured coverage is brought into play.

“All drivers who are on the road in New York should be licensed and insured. If not, they will be subject to prosecution for unlicensed operation and would likely be subject to deportation.

“Making sure a person has an ID also helps emergency personnel during times of crisis. If someone arrives at a hospital from a car crash unresponsive, or with some apparent serious illness, a drivers’ license will help identify them. A drivers’ license will give first responders the ability to verify their identity and check their driving history at a traffic stop.

“Undocumented immigrants would not be eligible for an Enhanced or Real-ID driver’s license. Only citizens can obtain these licenses. Licenses issued to undocumented immigrants will be stamped “NOT FOR FEDERAL PURPOSES” on them. Such a driver’s license cannot be used to register to vote. Therefore, this is not a bill to “open the borders” as some have charged. The bill makes no change in someone’s immigration status. It is a bill providing for identification where none exists at this time to assure that large numbers of people are not moving about the State with no identification.

“There is no basis for suggesting that this law will cost the state any money. There are fees associated with obtaining drivers’ licenses. Finally, to repeat, allowing people to roam around without any identification at all does not make our State safer.”