Legislature passes bill to expand driving privileges

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Earlier this week, the N.J. State Assembly and Senate each passed the Expanded Driver’s License Legislation, which would allow undocumented immigrants and others facing barriers the opportunity to be eligible for driver’s licenses.

Bishop Dennis Sullivan has been an advocate for expanding driving rights to individuals regardless of their immigration status, and many local Catholics have fought long and hard for this legislation.

The Expanded Driver’s License Legislation creates a two-tiered system. One tier, a standard state license, would be used by individuals such as undocumented immigrants or formerly incarcerated residents for driving and identification purposes only. The second tier, compliant with federal REAL ID rules, would allow holders to board domestic flights and register citizens to vote. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has promised to sign it into law.

Andres Arango, Bishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry, Diocese of Camden said, “This legislation is a great blessing for our Latino community and other vulnerable groups in our state. Many good people will be able to drive without the current anxiety of not having a driver’s license.”

The bills “will be a great boost to many immigrants in our state as well as a benefit to all residents by helping to make our roads more secure,” said Matthew Davis, director of Life and Justice Ministries and Vice Chancellor for the Diocese of Camden.

“Many people locally in our diocese and across the state have worked for years to make this a reality. I am very happy for them and all the people who will benefit from this new law.”

In October, more than 100 leaders  of multiple faith traditions, including Bishop Dennis Sullivan and religious of the Diocese of Camden, sent an open letter to Gov. Murphy and legislative leaders, urging expanded access to driver’s licenses for vulnerable populations.

“In New Jersey, driving is critical to caring for family, accessing medical and social services, getting to work, and participating in community life,” the leaders stressed in writing, and decried “attacks on our friends, neighbors, and family members, all of whom contribute immensely to our communities.”

With driver’s licenses, immigrants will be able to “more fully participate as members of their communities and make them less vulnerable to detention and deportation every time they go to work, take a child to school or to the doctor, or attend a worship service.”

“Our faith compels us to speak up for those who are most marginalized in our communities,” the signees wrote, adding that the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) “each call on us to care for the immigrant, the exile, and the newcomer.”

With the legislation passed by the Assembly and Senate, New Jersey is set to become the 15th state to expand access to qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status.