The top elected officials in the 32nd Legislative District, state Senator Nick Sacco, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez and Assemblyman Pedro Mejia, voiced their support for a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses.
The press conference was hosted at the Trova Cuban Cafe in North Bergen and was primarily in Spanish, though Sacco explained the particulars of bill S-3229 in English.
“Now it’s very difficult, the legislation, just as it is now, we don’t know what it will look like by the time we finally get to vote – how many compromises have to be made, but what it does is protects those people who need to find employment, that they will have a valid driver’s license,” he noted.
“It will make out streets safer: they will not only have valid driver’s licenses, but they have insurance so the risk of such an accident is no longer so overwhelming – the fear for this just is not valid any longer. You’ll have insurance, you’ll take your driver’s test, you’ll have your driver’s license and that license cannot be used against a person by authorities.”
Sacco continued that in heavily Latino communities like North Bergen, it is commonplace for undocumented immigrants to be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as the result of a traffic stop or accident.
He added that he expects to vote on some version of the bill before the end of the year, expressing confidence that Gov. Phil Murphy would stick to his word and sign the bill once it has been approved.
“I believe we can get this passed before the year’s end and we know when we get it passed, the governor will sign it,” Sacco stated.
In addition to his legislative running mates, Sacco was joined by immigrant rights advocates and Latino clergy who also fully support the measure.
“We commend Senator Sacco for standing up on behalf of the thousands of residents who live in the shadows of our communities and can’t perform the most essential daily functions and activities, such as taking their children to school, going to medical visits or grocery shopping,” Bishop Antonio A. Merino, the president of the Coalition of Latino Pastors and Ministers, said in Spanish.
A synopsis of the current bill says that it’s passage would allow the state Motor Vehicle Commission to issue driver’s licenses and identification cards to “residents unable to prove lawful residence in the U.S.”