The State Assembly approved a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
Before it can become law, the bill must pass the state Senate, where it is expected to be met with resistance and skepticism, including from some moderate Democrats.
During a floor debate before the vote on Wednesday, June 12, Republican assemblymen said the legislation might open a "back door" for criminals and even terrorists to obtain documents.
“I understand the chances of a terrorist invading our security measures are slim, and we would desirably want them to be so to not have repeat of September 11,” said Assemblyman Robert Smullen, a Republican from Herkimer, and a former Marine,. “But I’m really concerned we are going to create a new avenue for someone to evade the law and obtain other legal documents.”
Others said they had heard concerns from local Board of Elections about the possibility of illegal voting, if the non- citizens are inadvertently signing up at the DMV to vote.
Supporters of the bill, including Democrat Phil Ramos of Long Island, think the bill will make all New Yorkers safer, because undocumented immigrants will learn to drive, and buy car insurance.
Ramos, a former police officer, said the drivers licenses will actually help law enforcement if an undocumented immigrant is involved in a crime.
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a Democrat from Queens, who was undocumented as a teenager, says her support of the bill has generated hate mail and even death threats.
Cruz said her mother’s inability to drive led her to miss important events in Cruz’s life, including when she received honors at her college graduation.
“I stood on stage alone, “ Cruz said. “Because my mother couldn’t attend the ceremony. She wouldn’t be able to make it to the ceremony after work using the subway.”
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