Legislation to Make New Jersey’s Roads Safer and Help New Jersey Immigrants Goes Missing in Action

drivers license map 0715updated-01Today, committees in both the Assembly and Senate were supposed to vote on a bill to provide a limited driver’s license to undocumented New Jerseyans and other vulnerable residents. But lawmakers have allowed the tragedies in Paris and San Bernardino to delay the bill. Opponents of this common-sense policy are spreading inaccurate information about security and safety to slow down the progress of a bill that would make New Jersey roads safer and increase the economic and family security of striving immigrants.

Terrorism fear-mongering aside, denying undocumented immigrants this kind of ID is counterproductive. But don’t take our word for it. “Denying identity legitimacy to 13 million undocumented immigrants-the vast majority of whom are not terrorists or otherwise threats to national security-just increases the size of the suspect pool for law enforcement to have to sort through,” says noted national security expert Kim Taipale.

Yes, this pragmatic policy would make all of us safer.

For one thing, being in the state’s comprehensive driver’s license databases brings people out of the shadows, providing certified documentation of who they are and where they live. Licenses aren’t granted if the driver can’t pass a driving test. The state driver’s license itself contains basic information and photographs that, in case of a tragedy, could be used to verify one’s identity.

And what’s more, if undocumented immigrants and other vulnerable populations obtain identification, they’ll be more likely to cooperate with the police if they are victims of a crime, witness a crime or see something suspicious – instead of avoiding contact due to fear of deportation or further questioning. This can only help law enforcement do its job better and solve more cases.

Many opponents point to the ability of license holders to board an airplane. Not so.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security made clear in approving California’s license (the model for the New Jersey bill) that “federal limits apply,” meaning no boarding passes.

Despite all the scare tactics about terrorism, it’s clear that allowing undocumented residents to legally drive – as 12 states plus D.C. do – has not led to more terror attacks or even higher threat levels. Much like it has too many times over the past 15 years, fear of terrorism is being used to further marginalize people who are already on the edges of American society. Scapegoating immigrants when national and security issue arises is discriminatory – and a waste of time and resources.

Lawmakers face a choice: give in to unfounded fears fueled by misinformation and the scapegoating of immigrants, or focus on the facts and do what’s right and safer for New Jersey. The best choice is clear.