By a margin of nearly 2 to 1, registered and likely voters in New Jersey are on board with giving driver licenses to illegal immigrants, according to a poll released Monday by Let's Drive NJ.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said they support legislation that would ensure undocumented immigrants are licensed to drive, compared to 29 percent of Garden Staters who oppose the move. More than 60 percent of registered Democrats favor the legislation, according to the poll; 47 percent of registered Republicans support it.

Of the 561 individuals surveyed, 80 percent were white.

"A lot of people think that this issue is more controversial than it really is," said Johanna Calle, director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, reacting to the poll's findings. "It's a very easy thing to do here in the state of New Jersey that should be done right away. It's been overdue for a long time."

Legislation introduced in late 2018 would create two categories of basic driver licenses in New Jersey — a REAL ID license that permits residents to, for example, board an airliner or enter a federal building; and a standard license for those "unable to prove lawful presence in the United States."

The legislation would require that applicants for the standard license pass a driving exam, and obtain auto insurance if they were going to operate a vehicle.

"It's about public safety," Calle said. "Everyone understands that when you're on the road, you want the person that's driving next to you to be licensed and insured and tested."

The state's governor and senate president have expressed support for driver licenses among undocumented immigrants. Calle said advocates are waiting on leadership in the Assembly to make the next move.

The Let's Drive NJ campaign, which advocates for legislation to expand licenses to all qualified residents, is supported by more than 70 faith, labor and community organizations across the state.

Calle said the New Jersey findings are similar to what's been seen elsewhere. If the current legislation becomes law, New Jersey would be the 13th state to expand access to driver licenses, the campaign said.

The measure has 22 sponsors in the Assembly and six in the Senate.

Responding to similar legislation introduced in early 2018, a joint statement from Sen. Chris Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove indicated they'd be voting against providing driver licenses to persons in our country illegal if and when the bill is voted on by the Legislature.

"If things weren't hard enough, parents now see their children having to compete with persons in our state illegally for seats at state colleges as well as for tuition assistance," the statement read. "Now residents face the prospect of waiting longer in the MVC line while illegal aliens are applying for a driver's license with limited identification documents, such as the ones legal residents are required to produce."

Their office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

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