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Quijano, Gusciora & Mukherji Bill to Establish Driver’s Licenses for N.J. Residents who cannot Prove Lawful Presence Released by Assembly Panel

Bill Designed to Improve Public Safety on New Jersey Roads

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Reed Gusciora and Raj Mukherji to improve public safety by establishing driver’s licenses for New Jersey residents who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

“This is not an immigration issue,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This is a safety issue. This will make certain that all people on the road are appropriately tested and licensed and are driving vehicles that are registered and insured. This is the right thing to do if we’re concerned about having common sense policies that ensure our roads are as safe as we can make them.”

Quijano said her proposal, which is named the New Jersey Safe and Responsible Drivers Act, is modeled on a California law that was approved by federal officials.

Specifically, under the provisions of this bill (A-4425), the Motor Vehicle Commission is required to issue a driver’s license to a person who satisfies the requirements for the issuance of a basic driver’s license but cannot prove lawful presence in the United States.

“The road can be a treacherous place. Having drivers on the road that never took a driver’s test, are unaware of our traffic laws and operating vehicles not properly registered does not make it any safer,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “These folks are already driving. Allowing them to take a driver’s test and properly register their vehicles ensures they understand the rules of the road and are responsible for following them.”

A person applying for this type of driver’s license is required to pay all fees applicable to the issuance of a basic driver’s license, and the commission may charge an additional fee – not to exceed $50 per license – to offset administrative costs.

Under the bill, the driver’s license is valid for four years.

“Since the reality is that many undocumented immigrants are already driving on our roads and highways, it is time that we join the dozen states that allow them driver’s licenses,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “All drivers should be accountable for their actions on the road. Besides ending a discriminatory practice, this bill will improve public safety by ensuring insurance coverage and registrations on their cars.”

The bill requires the commission to adopt regulations on the form and design of the driver’s license, which is to include a digitized photo of the person and a statement on the front of the driver’s license substantially similar to the following: “Federal Limits May Apply.”

Any personal information collected from the commission is subject to the same disclosure restrictions that apply to personal information collected from applicants for driver’s licenses.

In addition, this information is not to be considered a public record, nor is it to be disclosed to any federal, state or local governmental entity without probable cause or a valid warrant.

The bill also provides that a driver’s license issued under the provisions of the bill is not to be considered evidence of an individual’s citizenship or immigration status and is not to be used as a basis for an investigation, arrest, citation or detention.

In addition, under the provisions of this bill, it would be an unlawful discrimination violation for any person to discriminate against an individual based on the fact the individual holds or presents a driver’s license issued under this bill.

Any public official who discriminates against a person who holds or presents a driver’s license issued under this bill is guilty of the crime of official deprivation of civil rights.

The bill also provides that an applicant for a license who provides false documentation or knowingly makes a false statement on an application for the purpose of obtaining this driver’s license is guilty of falsifying government records.

The bill specifies that insurers can’t charge higher premiums just because an individual has one of these licenses.

The bill also allows the commission to ask for translations of documents when it doesn’t have staff that can read them in the original language.
The bill requires the chief administrator to submit a report to the governor and the Legislature evaluating the effectiveness of the issuance of driver’s licenses under this bill.

Lastly, under the provisions of the bill, the chief administrator is required to establish and conduct a public education campaign to inform the public about the availability of the driver’s license issued under this bill and the requirements for obtaining such a license.

The bill was released by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.