What Happened Last Time Immigrants in U.S. Illegally Got NJ Driver’s Licenses?
The issue of allowing those who are in the country illegally to get driver's licenses is once again heating up in the Garden State, but you might be surprised to learn this policy was actually adopted for a short time in New Jersey – 23 years ago.
On July 1st, 1992, the Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles - now the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission – faced a lawsuit from Legal Services of New Jersey, a non-profit agency that represents the interests of low income residents. In response, the DMV changed its rules and allowed individuals to apply for a driver’s license without proof of U.S. citizenship.
As word spread of the change, long lines began forming at DMV offices, and some undocumented immigrants from other states began arriving in New Jersey so they could get a license.
Twenty-seven days later, then-NJ Attorney General Robert Del Tufo issued a directive instructing the DMV to resume its previous policy.
At the time, he said while there were legal arguments that favored both sides, he felt there were compelling arguments that people in this country illegally don’t have the right to get a driver’s license.
Today. Del Tufo says one big issue, which still exists today, is security. However, at the same time, he said, “we have people who are here, that’s a reality. If they’re not going to be deported, we want them to be able to have some means of supporting themselves and I think a drivers license is important there.”
He said lawmakers need to carefully examine this issue and balance homeland security with common sense.
“If they’re going to let licenses be issued, they’ve got to build some safeguards in place to make sure they’re not giving licenses out to people who shouldn’t have them. They have to balance out the benefits to society, letting people drive, with the possibility of terrorism and violence,” Del Tufo said. “This is a legislative function that we’re talking about, it’s not an executive or a judicial.”
Some former DMV officials estimate several thousand licenses were given out to undocumented aliens 23 years ago, although no one really knows how many were issued.