A planned week-long vigil officially kicked off at State House on Monday as activists held a small rally urging lawmakers to approve legislation that would give driver’s licenses to immigrants living in NJ illegally.

Among those in attendance at the vigil Monday was Carmela Alza of Newark, who actually began fasting Saturday.

“Fasting for me is something spiritual and it’s also a sacrifice. It is what I can give,” said Alza through a translator.

The argument for the driver's license expansion was that roads would be safer because the undocumented immigrants would have to pass the same driver’s license test that legal residents have to pass and revenue would be generated because the undocumented residents would have to buy insurance.

“Essentially it would create a new class of license, but you still need a six-point verification system,” said Carlos Rojas with Faith in New Jersey. “This is actually law in 13 other states so it’s not a brand new policy. It’s not a new effort. It’s something that has been proven and tested.”

One Republican lawmaker expressed his opposition after a press conference in November.

“I oppose giving driver’s licenses to individuals who cannot prove their lawful presence in the United State,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson). “This is a homeland security issue. It’s not about bringing more revenues into the State of New Jersey.”

Allowing undocumented immigrants to have drivers’ licenses would actually improve homeland security efforts Rojas claimed.

“We would know who these folks are and where they live. Currently we don’t know where they live. We don’t know who they are,” Rojas said.

In a Nov. 16, 2015 press release, Gov. Chris Christie made it very clear he would never sign the bill (A-4425/S-2925) into law if it passed the legislature and landed on his desk.

“I am disturbed by the legislature even considering making undocumented individuals eligible for New Jersey driver’s licenses,” the governor wrote. “As a former United States attorney, I know that the driver’s license is the single most important piece of homeland security identification. Yet, the Legislature proposes giving that to people with no definitive proof of their identity. To consider doing this in the current environment is not only irresponsible, but dangerous. If it were to ever reach my desk, it would be vetoed immediately.”

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security commended California’s efforts to improve the security of their driver’s licenses and identification cards with the law.

The other states with a law already on the books that were similar to the Garden State proposal were:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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