Immigrants and advocates make plea for N.J. driver’s licenses

 Advocates on steps of the New Jersey Statehouse urge support for a measure that would expand driving privileges to immigrants. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Advocates on steps of the New Jersey Statehouse urge support for a measure that would expand driving privileges to immigrants. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Advocates are urging New Jersey lawmakers to take action in the final weeks of the lame-duck legislative session on a measure that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license.

Carlos Rojas is a community organizer for the group Faith in New Jersey. He says the legislation would improve safety on the roads and could ease fear about foreigners.

“From a national security standpoint we would know who these folks are and where they live,” he said. They need a driver’s license to be able to provide for their families and if the state has security concerns, we need to know who they are.”

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris, Essex and Passaic counties) opposes the measure.

“These are very trying times, national security, anti-terrorism, that’s all very important,” Pennacchio said. “Giving an undocumented a primary source of identification I think is a mistake at this time”

Santiago Rodriguez with the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey takes issue with critics such as Pennacchio.

“The security of the nation is going to being affected be giving licenses to workers that have been here 15 to 20 years, that have kids in schools here?” asked Rodriguez. “That just moved from Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras from Mexico to have a better living.”

Gov. Chris Christie is vowing to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk. He says a driver’s license is the most important piece of homeland security identification and giving it to people without definitive proof of their identify would be irresponsible.

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