The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Judge Stays Ban on Immigrant Driverâ€TMs Licenses in NY State

by Gabriel Thompson

The Department is fighting tooth and nail against a judge's ruling that it must stop suspending undocumented immigrants' driving privileges.

Mar. 1, 2005 – A New York State Supreme Court judge recently ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to temporarily halt its efforts to suspend driving privileges to undocumented immigrants.

Despite the ruling, immigrants that attempted to renew expired licenses after the injunction told the New York Times that the DMV instead confiscated their licenses.

Justice Karen S. Smith of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued a February 17 ruling in favor of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which brought the class-action suit against the DMV’s crackdown last summer. Justice Smith found that the DMV did not have the authority to enforce immigration law and had failed to properly notify the public before beginning a policy of license suspension. Thus far, 7,000 commercial licenses have been suspended, and more than 300,000 licenses could eventually be revoked.

Currently, New York is one of a handful of states like Oregon and Wisconsin that does not explicitly ban undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. Although no legislation in New York has been introduced barring undocumented immigrants from driving legally, two years ago the New York State DMV began demanding original Social Security cards for applicants.

Last week, New York State officials announced that they would appeal the decision. An April 7 hearing is set for the plaintiffs’ motion for the preliminary injunction.

In an effort to secure the explicit right to drive in New York for anyone who can provide identification, state Assemblyman Félix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) last Wednesday introduced a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses.

While the status of New York’s requirements remains in flux, a new bill introduced in Congress by James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the Real ID Act, would bar licenses to undocumented immigrants in all 50 states, as well as make it more difficult for refugees to gain asylum in the United States. The US House of Representatives passed the Real ID Act, and it now awaits a decision from Senators.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Gabriel Thompson is a contributing journalist.

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