Trenton rally calls for giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants

Hundreds of residents rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse in support of the legislation (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Hundreds of residents rally outside the New Jersey Statehouse in support of the legislation (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Hundreds of New Jersey residents rallied outside the State House in Trenton urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license.

Johanna Calle, the director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said it’s frustrating that the Legislature has not acted on the measure.

“With the Trump administration really attacking our communities, what they have been doing now, we’re seeing a lot of families separated because of the lack of drivers licenses,” said Calle. “Sometimes a minor traffic stop can end up in a deportation. So we really need to make sure that this passes.”

Lakewood resident Reina Axalco came to the U.S. from Mexico 14 years ago. She now takes a bus or a taxi to make needed trips and hopes she’ll be able to get a license.

“I need it for my kids, for school, for work. When my baby is sick I have to take her to the doctor and if I don’t have a license I cannot drive as soon as possible that she needs,” said Axalco.

Advocates say the legislation would help prevent people from driving illegally without a license and make the roads safer.

New Jersey Policy Perspective president Gordon MacInnes said it would also have economic benefits for the state.

“You get over time 450,000 people paying fees to get their driver’s licenses. They have to have auto insurance. You get settlements instead of having a fund that takes care of the costs of accidents where nobody was insured,” he said.

There’s no indication when lawmakers might act on the bill.

Twelve states and Washington, D.C. passed laws offering driver’s licenses to those in the country without authorization.

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