By Emily Drooby
Chants of joy erupted as the New York State Senate narrowly passed a measure allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Shortly after it passed on the evening of June 17, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law.
Cuomo then went on radio to admit that there’s passion on both sides, saying to WAMC, “The driver’s license is an issue that is very controversial in this state, second only to marijuana. And people have very strong feelings.”
Michael Long, the retired Chairman of New York state’s conservative party, is calling the new law a serious mistake.
“Now we have illegal, illegal immigrants, who have broken the law, who don’t live by the law and they’re going to give them driver’s licenses, which will lead to all sorts of corruption,” said Long.
Long added that the law is a slap in the face to people who come to the United States legally.
“And yet they’re being held at the border because they can’t get in because their number hasn’t been called yet. These people didn’t wait for a number, they crossed illegally and now they are being rewarded in the state of New York,” he said.
Many are praising the law, arguing licensed drivers will make the roads safer and they will have insurance.
Monsignor James Kelly and Princess Reinoso spend their days helping immigrants At St. Brigid Immigration Services in Brooklyn. They say the law will help a lot of people.
“The advantages are very, very valuable and necessary almos for most of them because they want to travel, they want to go to work,” said Monsignor Kelly.
“It seems so simple to us because we have it but for people who don’t have it it’s a step closer to their green card,” said Reinoso.
Monsignor Kelly adds the law is not without questions. A main concern is that the federal government, particularly I.C.E., will gain access to personal information.
“They’re going to be very concerned about immigration knowing where they are and who they are, that’s a reality we run into that all the time they are very scared of giving their names, giving their addresses,” said Monsignor Kelly.
That was also a concern of many lawmakers including Governor Cuomo. He wouldn’t sign the bill until he got assurances that wouldn’t happen in New York.
The law goes into effect in 180 days, which means the first licenses could start being issued in December.