The Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders has unanimously passed a resolution urging state officials to enact legislation that would allow the Motor Vehicle Commission to issue driver licenses to New Jersey residents who do not have the documentation to meet the state’s six-point requirement.
Mercer County is the sixth county to pass such a resolution. Two proposed bills in the state Senate and Assembly would allow people to obtain a limited license for the purposes of driving in the state after being properly vetted, tested and insured.
Supporters of the legislation argue the change would make roads in New Jersey safer, because the number of unlicensed drivers in the state would decrease. According to supporters of the legislation, New Jersey has more than 400,000 residents, many of them undocumented immigrants, who would benefit from the change in policy.
Several Mercer county families attended the meeting and testified in support of the policy, saying they and family members had to endure hardships because their parents lacked access to driving privileges.
“You have no idea how stressful it is for my parents, who desperately want to do the right thing, having to make a choice between survival and breaking the law, every day, ” Trenton High School student John Santos told officials.
Thelma Carrera, a student at the College of New Jersey, said not being able to drive legally in New Jersey makes life very difficult for her single mother, who is a self-employed housekeeper, and prevents her younger siblings from participating in after-school and church activities when she is away at college.
“(It) provides an incentive for more people to comply with licensing, insurance, and registration regulations, so it will result in greater public safety for all the residents in the state,” said Maria Juega, Executive Director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund,
Princeton Immigration lawyer Ryan Lillienthal, an immigration attorney from Princeton, said 12 other states have already passed similar laws.
A statewide campaign to pass the legislation has been organized by the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
“The chorus of voices from across the state pleading for access to driver’s licenses is becoming too loud to ignore. Mercer County deserves credit for recognizing that expanding an orderly and thorough, but flexible screening of drivers will enhance public safety, boost our economy, and strengthen civil rights,” said Ari Rosmarin, Public Policy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, a member of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.