The subway does not reach Brentwood, Long Island. Every night, Carlos, an undocumented immigrant working in an agricultural farm, checks his watch anxiously. If he is not at the bus stop at 9:00 p.m., he is forced to find another way to get home.

For him, this transportation nightmare became worse two years ago. Since November 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president, his 2000 Toyota Corolla has sat in front of his garage. Carlos has stopped driving, for fear of being stopped and turned in to ICE for being undocumented, which would lead to deportation.

“The first thing I did as soon as I could was save some money to buy a car to go to work and have family trips,” said the 46-year-old, who was born in El Salvador. “There is no way to move around here if you don’t have a vehicle.”

That is a serious problem that many undocumented immigrants living in areas where public transportation is scarce endure. Undocumented families seeking to have a normal life in the suburbs often need to drive, but their immigration status prevents them from obtaining a driver’s permit.

People who want to apply for a state-issued driver’s license must present several documents to verify their identity and immigration status, including their social security card and a green card or U.S. passport, among others. 

For over a decade, a number of efforts seeking to allow 850,000 undocumented immigrants in New York State to obtain driver permits – according to an estimate by the Institute of Immigration Policy – have failed. Still, the results of the mid-term election on November 6 could change things.

As the new state legislature will be completely under Democratic control come 2019, several bills – including one named Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and State Senator Luis Sepúlveda – could become law if reintroduced, according to activists and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s legal advisor Alfonso David himself.

During the SOMOS conference held in Puerto Rico, David assured that the bill would be passed.

Still, a spokesman for the Cuomo administration clarified that such statements were not a guarantee or even “a preference,” and that David’s comments were made in the context of a lecture about immigration in which he was explaining that an executive order could not be applied to authorize issuing driver’s licenses. The spokesman confirmed that David did say that “if the necessary support is gathered in the legislature, Cuomo is very likely to sign the law,” adding: “The governor has been in favor of the bill at least since 2008.”

In the meantime, the news of the arrival of more Democrats in Albany seems to be bringing back hope among immigrant advocate groups in New York. Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), said he was excited to see the office of Governor Cuomo showing interest in expanding driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers. Continue reading

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