LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Advocates push bill to expand access to driver’s licenses

Advocates from the Let’s Drive NJ campaign rallied outside the State House urging legislators to support expanding access to driver’s licenses to unauthorized residents. The rally comes ahead of New Jersey getting ready to roll out the federal Real ID Act next year. Under the new law, residents wanting Real ID cards must prove their identity with a new 6-point ID system in order to board a domestic flight or enter a federal building.

Community organizer Brian Lozano says people part of marginalized communities, like the homeless, should have the option to have a standard basic driver’s license.

“New Jersey has one the strictest 6-point ID systems in the county. Most of the documents that you can provide to prove who you say you are, are documents that are granted by the federal government of the U.S. and don’t accept foreign documents. And then on the other side, for example for homeless communities or returning citizens, you have an issue of verifying address. A lot of returning citizens don’t have an address to call their own, or homeless communities don’t have an address, so this would make the process easier,” said Lozano.

Advocates say the legislation is an important for confronting privacy and civil rights concerns raised by the implementation of the Real ID Act in New Jersey.

“The only thing that the Real ID does, is it says that in order to travel or enter a government building you need to have this specific identification card. What we’re just saying is to have another option that allows individuals to just get a state ID if they don’t want to submit their documentation to the federal government,” Jay Rehman, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relation’s NJ Chapter, said.

“The economy will be boosted. I believe that it’s estimated that the first year 84,000 new vehicles will be bought in New Jersey, boosting those local economies, which means that people will be going to mechanics, buying parts for their cars. As far as registration fees, it’ll be in the millions the first year and successively throughout renewing licenses,” Lozano said.

The bill has been introduced in the Assembly and Senate, and advocates say they are now waiting for legislators to move it into committees. The Real ID will go into enforcement in the spring of 2019.