The fight to grant driver’s licenses to the state’s undocumented residents has the blessing of Rev. Al Sharpton.
The Harlem preacher and head of the National Action Network believes the issue is a “civil rights concern” and wants to see Democrats in the state Senate join their colleagues in the Assembly in moving the measure forward.
“When routine traffic stops regularly lead to arrests and deportations of Black and Brown New Yorkers, something has to give,” Sharpton said in a statement Thursday. “That’s why the Green Light NY bill isn’t just a public safety issue — it’s a civil rights concern.”
Sharpton’s praise for the bill comes as a group of African American lawmakers plan to rally at the Capitol Building on Thursday in support of the legislation.
The bill, dubbed Green Light NY, cleared the Assembly Transportation Committee on Wednesday and will be voted on by the full chamber next Tuesday, according to Speaker Carl Heastie.
In the Senate, some Democrats have been wary of backing a bill that remains divisive and unpopular in some suburban and rural districts.
Last week, Sen. Luis Sepulveda (D-Bronx), the bill’s lead sponsor, said he was confident the bill will pass by the end of the legislative session on June 19.
“If we took it to a vote, I’m pretty confident we could pass the bill,” he said “But we’re still trying to address concerns that other members, say on Long Island, have.”
The measure remains deeply divisive across the state.
A Siena College poll conducted in April found that 55% of New Yorkers oppose the idea.
Supporters argue the measure will make roads safer and bring in millions for the state, pointing out that twelve other states and the District of Columbia already issue driver’s licenses to non-citizens.
The bill would impact as many as 265,000 people and could generate $34 million in annual revenue from gas and auto taxes and fees, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Sharpton said the issue is a simple matter of decency and urged any holdouts in the Senate get on board.
“Denying driver’s licenses to those that satisfactorily pass the required tests is like something out of Jim Crow, and our legislators in Albany would do well to stop penalizing hardworking New Yorkers who already have to deal with bad public transit in low-income areas or wildly expensive car services just to get to work or get their children to school,” he said.
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