Is Murphy backing out of giving licenses to undocumented immigrants?
TRENTON — During his inaugural address, Gov. Phil Murphy ran through a number of issues that he hoped to address during his administration with at least one glaring omission.
Driver's licenses for residents living in this country illegally.
The new chief executive ticked off women’s health and Planned Parenthood; raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; equal pay for women; earned paid sick leave; making voting easier; and strengthening already-tough gun laws.
But he did not mention his promise to provide drivers licenses and statewide ID to undocumented and unauthorized immigrants.
Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey, is confident Murphy will sign into law a bill that is the basis for the "Let's Drive NJ" campaign. The legislation, sponsored by sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, would make licenses available to an estimated 466,000 undocumented immigrants.
Quijano's bill could benefit transgender people, people who may have misplaced documents, college students and seniors. It was introduced on Jan. 9 and was referred to the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.
The license would be restricted and would not be valid identification for federal or out-of-state purposes.
"There are potentially 500,000 people in New Jersey who could gain access to a license," according to Cullinane, who sees it as a public safety issue. Under the bill, Cullinane said more people would become insured, which would reduce rates. The state's coffers would fill with extra license fees as well.
"We're looking forward to working with the new administration to make it happen," Cullinane said.
The key for supporters of the measure is to keep it at the forefront of the governor's agenda.
"In an very unfortunate way, I think it would be hard for anyone to forget it's an issue because of what's going on in Washington, D.C.," Johanna Calle, director of the NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said. She believes, given Murphy's vow during the inaugural address to "resist every move from President Trump." it will remain an important issue to him.
Calle said her group is ready to help get the legislation passed and onto Murphy's desk "because this is a big important issue for him and for us."
State Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren, does not think giving unauthorized immigrants a license makes sense in a country based on the rule of law.
"We have individuals who are not lawfully in the United States. They did not follow the laws of the United States to enter the country. They do not have a lawful presence here," the member of the state Senate Judiciary Committee said.
"We have a real problem. We can't take care of our own citizens, can't take care of our seniors, cannot take care of our veterans and we're throwing out the welcome mat and saying, 'Come to New Jersey. You can break the law by entering the United States and hey, we'll give you a driver's license,'" Doherty said.
David Matthau contributed to this report.