A press conference Monday on the steps of the State House signaled the beginning of a new push to establish driver’s licenses for New Jersey residents even if they can’t prove they’re in the U.S. legally.

(Mulecan, ThinkStock)

Lawmakers and advocates lauded legislation (A-4425) to make their hope a reality, but it was clear there would be vocal and staunch opposition.

“I believe that every individual should have the right to apply for a driver’s license in the State of New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “This is not a new concept.”

The other states with laws already on the books that were similar to the Garden State proposal included:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

“We are urging passage of this law which would expand driver’s licenses to all New Jerseyans and would make our roads safer,” said Johanna Calle, program coordinator for the NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “This law would benefit hundreds of thousands of people and would bring millions of dollars of revenue to our state.”

The argument was that roads would be safer because the immigrants here illegally would have to pass the same driver’s license test that legal residents have to pass and revenue would be generated because the immigrants would have to buy insurance. One lawmaker wasn’t buying that at all.

“I oppose giving driver’s license to individuals who cannot prove their lawful presence in the United States,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson). “This is a homeland security issue. It’s not about bringing more revenues into the State of New Jersey.”

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security commended California’s efforts to improve the security of their driver’s licenses and identification cards with the law according to Quijano.

“If this design is good enough to satisfy the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, then it’s good enough for New Jersey,” Quijano, the chairperson of the Assembly Homeland Security Committee, said. She said she would rename her bill the “NJ Safe and Responsible Drivers Act.”

Dancer remains opposed. He said legal U.S. residents who apply for a driver’s license in the Garden State have to provide six points of identification so it would be a double standard to let immigrants here illegally get licenses without providing any proof that they are who they say they are.