Advocates, Murphy continue push to give driver’s licenses to all, regardless of status

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Advocates in New Jersey are continuing to push for New Jersey to become the 14th state to allow all residents to get driver’s licenses, regardless of immigration status.

A bill to make this law in New Jersey has been around for about a year, but lawmakers are still working out the details.

“In my opinion, if you live here in New Jersey, you’re a New Jerseyan. And you should be treated as such,” says Erika Nava with the group New Jersey Policy Perspective.

A new proposal that Gov. Phil Murphy says is a “no brainer” would expand ID requirements and allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license in New Jersey.

But advocates say that it is not just about handing out free IDs to anyone who wants one. Drivers will still be required to pass certain tests.

RELATED: Rally pushes for bill that would allow driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status 
MORE: Assembly Bill A4743 - Expanded access for driver's licenses 

“They have to be trained, licensed, pass the written test, the driving test and insured,” says Nava. “So, they still have to do all those three things like everybody else… It’s not giving anybody legal status. It’s allowing them to drive legally here.”

Advocates say the licenses would only be used for driving and car insurance. But those who are opposed to the plan question why the state should cater to those who are breaking the law by coming into the country illegally.

“Those who are seeking driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants are essentially protecting individuals who are breaking the law for their very first step in our country,” says Republican State Sen. Chris Connors.

RELATED: State senator hopes to make roads safer with driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants 

Connors says that he and others opposed to the plan are also concerned about security requirements to get a license are relaxed.

“The underlying problem is allowing people to come into the country illegally and then be treated with all the benefits of citizenship is just fundamentally unfair,” he says.

“I think it’s unfair. I think it’s wrong. I think it’s a bad direction for the state of New Jersey,” says Connors.

But Murphy, a Democrat, says that he is fully backing the bill.

A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said a bill is still being drawn up, but a report stated that the speaker was livid the governor was pushing the issue so close to November’s election.

New Jersey Policy Perspective estimates 300,000 people who can’t get licenses right now would apply for one within three years if the bill is passed.

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