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On Driver’s License Access

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 13:23

The East Hampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force will host an information forum on New York State’s new law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the East Hampton Library.

Speaking will be Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Minerva Perez, director of Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, Chief Michael Sarlo of the East Hampton Town Police Department, and Andrew Strong, OLA’s general counsel.

The State Senate narrowly approved a bill that would afford undocumented immigrants an opportunity to obtain a driver’s license in June. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo quickly signed it.

The law permits undocumented immigrants to obtain a “standard” license, the lowest of three levels of driver’s licenses being developed by the state. It grants full driving privileges while stating on its face that it is not acceptable as a federal identification. It would not provide a path to citizenship.

The state previously allowed undocumented residents to drive, but after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then-Gov. George Pataki, citing a threat of terrorist infiltration, issued an executive order requiring applicants to prove their legal status before obtaining licenses.

Twelve other states and Washington, D.C., allow undocumented immigrants to drive.

Supporters say that the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, known as the Green Light bill, will result in more drivers who are properly licensed, educated, and tested; a greater likelihood that an immigrant driver is operating a registered, inspected, and insured vehicle, and increased cooperation with law enforcement for traffic safety as well as for all crimes.

The new law, which will take effect in December, will have a measurable local impact, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said upon the bill’s passage.

“This was a very important effort,” he said in June, “and affects the East End very much. We have a number of people in town who rely on vehicles to get around, and we don’t really have a public transportation system to afford those people access to work, to doctor’s appointments, to grocery stores, to schools, and whatnot. We think this is an effort that will result in safer roadways for all, more licensed drivers, insured drivers, better drivers.”

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