NJPP Testimony: We Can All Benefit from Sharing the Road with More Licensed Drivers

This testimony, on A-4425, was delivered to the Assembly Homeland Security & State Preparedness Committee this afternoon.

drivers license map 0715updated-01I thank the chair and members of the committee for acting on this important issue. My name is Erika Nava and I am policy analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective. When it comes to allowing all New Jerseyans – regardless of status – to drive legally, the facts from our research are clear: This common-sense policy would make New Jersey safer, improve cooperation with law enforcement, help its economy and increase the wellbeing of many families.

New Jersey is home to about 525,000 undocumented residents from around the world, representing about 6 percent of the state’s population. These folks are your neighbors. Their children are your kids’ classmates. Most of them work. They pay over half a billion dollars each year in state and local taxes. We estimate that up to 460 thousand of these New Jerseyans stand to benefit from this legislation.

But it’s not just undocumented residents who would benefit. This legislation could also help veterans who have trouble proving their status, the homeless and other vulnerable populations. These people are more likely than you or me to lack the many specific documents currently required under the state’s 6-point system.

And this bill is by no means some radical, off-the-wall proposal. It’s simply pragmatic. That’s why 12 other states and Washington D.C. have already enacted similar policies to ensure that all their drivers are trained, tested, licensed, insured and accountable for their driving performance.

The evidence from states that adopted this policy years ago suggest that it will make the state’s roadways safer. And local communities would be safer, thanks to increased trust between immigrant residents and law enforcement.

This policy will also allow more New Jerseyans to fully participate in their local economies and provide a modest boost to state coffers from a variety of taxes and fees.

With this policy, parents would be able to drive their children to school or doctors’ appointments without breaking the law. It would also mean fewer families would be broken up through deportation or jail time, helping to ease anxiety that can damage a child’s development.

Finally, I want to make it clear that this policy would not grant anyone legal status – only the federal government has the power to make this kind of change, or allow license-holders to apply for state and federal programs like NJ FamilyCare or welfare. And contrary to the assertion of some opponents, no holder of the proposed license could board an airplane as this license will state “Federal Limits Apply” printed on front of the card.

The bottom line is clear: This policy would help people who are currently unable to get a license, but it would also help all of us. We can all benefit from sharing the road with more drivers that are licensed and insured.

Thank you for your time.