Sepúlveda-Crespo bill would extend driving privileges to undocumented immigrants

Legislative Gazette photo by Jeffrey Trotter

Lawmakers, police departments and immigrant-rights groups are calling for legislation that would extend the ability to obtain a license to all New Yorkers — including undocumented immigrants.

The bill, known as the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act (S.8680/A.10273) is sponsored by Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, D-Bronx, and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, D-Bronx. The bill is currently sitting in the Transportation Committee of both houses.

The legislation would particularly benefit undocumented immigrants who currently have no way of obtaining a driver’s licenses because they do not have the documentation needed to apply for one.

If passed, the new legislation would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue “standard” drivers’ licenses and restrict what information can be retained and given out on those applying or holding one. Supporters of the bill say this would secure the privacy of undocumented immigrants.

Along with gaining the ability to drive legally, undocumented immigrants would also be able to open bank accounts and feel more protected reporting crimes to police who ask for identification.

Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra and his police department support the bill, saying it will help keep New Yorkers safe.

“As a police chief, my number one concern is safety: safety for both our community and the men and women who serve our communities,” Sinagra said. “Providing an opportunity for all individuals in New York state to obtain a limited purpose driver’s license is paramount to the mission of public safety.”

According to the immigrants-rights group Green Light New York, the bill would also be beneficial for public transportation, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would receive an estimated additional $8.6 million in annual revenue from New York City, Long Island and Lower Hudson. The surcharges would come from car registrations, gas taxes and sales taxes, as well as an estimated $2.2 million in one-time revenue from the driver’s licenses surcharges.

The upstate undocumented immigrants that would benefit from having a driver’s license work mainly at small businesses and on farms. 

“It’s just good common sense and an economic boom for the state,” said Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, Steven Choi. “Now we need Gov. Cuomo and our legislative leaders to drive this forward.”