Now is the Time for Driver’s License Expansion


Members of the Let’s Drive campaign march to the New Jersey State House in support of driver’s license expansion (Photo by Erika Nava, December 17, 2018)

New Jersey is among the most diverse states in the nation and has the third-largest share of immigrants, and its public policy should reflect this reality. Expanding access to driver’s licenses to all residents, regardless of immigration status, is fundamental to New Jersey’s immigrant communities fully participating in the state’s economy.

All New Jerseyans would benefit from drivers license expansion through safer roads and a stronger economy. And chances are we all have family members, friends, classmates, coworkers, and neighbors who are immigrants, and perhaps undocumented.Their success is very much tied to ours, and we all want members of our communities to thrive.

This policy has already been adopted in twelve states and Washington, DC, and is proven to make roads safer and immigrant communities more secure. Other vulnerable populations also benefit from this policy, like survivors of domestic violence who many not have all of the 6-point identification documents on-hand. There is simply no good reason not to advance this common-sense legislation.

In 2006, legislation was introduced to allow all New Jerseyans to be trained, tested, licensed and insured. This proposal ultimately failed as legislative leadership felt it was “not the right time.” Now, more than a decade has passed and immigration advocates are left wondering: when is the right time? Why not now?

Yes, New Jersey has taken important steps over the last year to make the state fairer and more welcoming to immigrant communities, namely through the passage of universal access to financial aid for higher education, but critical work remains undone.

The Senate President has publicly stated he supports expanding access to driver’s licenses. The Assembly Speaker similarly pledged his support to the Let’s Drive campaign. The governor has also signaled that he will sign such a policy if it lands on his desk. So what is holding up the legislation from advancing?

It is not lost on the Let’s Drive campaign that every member of the Assembly is up for reelection in 2019, but politics should not get in the way of sound public policy, especially when that policy would benefit so many New Jerseyans. Now is the time. Let’s drive.