We have lived in New York for nearly two decades. Now, we are finally able to apply for driver’s licenses. That’s because the new Green Light Law is taking effect. The law restores legal access to permission to operate vehicles on our roads to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.
For immigrant parents like us, especially in the suburbs where we live, it’s an enormous relief: It will mean finally being able to drive our kids to school and the doctor and driving ourselves to work, without fear of being stopped by the police and having our family torn apart by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
We came to New York in the early 2000s from Argentina seeking a better future for our family. We’ve worked tough, modest-paying jobs and raised our children in Brentwood, a Long Island community where public transportation is scarce and unreliable, and where taxis are expensive.
Without access to licenses, we’ve faced the choice of risking arrest when we drive or spending hours just to get back and forth to work. Some days, when our daughter has been sick, one of us has had to miss a whole day of work just to be able to pick her up. Other times, when our son had a bad allergic reaction to seafood, the only option was to drive together to the hospital, though we knew we were putting ourselves at risk. We had no choice: Our son’s life was in jeopardy.
So we joined the fight to ensure access to licenses for all. With our fellow members of Make the Road New York and allies with the Green Light NY campaign, we gathered petition signatures in our community, knocked on doors in our neighborhoods, visited elected officials and traveled repeatedly to Albany to make sure the state’s leaders heard us.
In 2019, our community mobilized to Albany like never before, and the hard work paid off. We are finally able to apply for a permit and a road test, just like every other adult New Yorker.
Our situation is not unique. More than 700,000 undocumented people across New York are now eligible to apply for a license. That’s not just good for us. It’s good for all New Yorkers, who will be driving on safer roads alongside more insured drivers and whose local and state governments will generate revenue through the licensing fees.
In our community, we’re now turning to educate people about the new law and how to apply. We’re holding educational forums, where hundreds of our neighbors have already shown up. And we’re encouraging others who can’t make it in person to visit a new website, licensesny.org, to learn about the process and the documents they’ll need to prepare.
We know that conservatives, mostly upstate, will continue to spread fear and misinformation about the new law. Sadly, that’s just a fact of life in the Trump era, where immigrants like us are used as scapegoats and to score cheap political points.
But we also know that the law we passed is strong legal ground. So while our opponents point their fingers at us and shout, we’re going to stay focused on the task at hand: preparing ourselves and our neighbors to apply for a license that will help their families and their communities.
Meanwhile, we’ll also be getting ready for another year in Albany, where we’ll be fighting to fully get ICE out of the courts, winning further protections for tenants across the state, and more.
Having driver’s licenses is going to change our lives. We’ll be able to safely get our kids to school, handle emergencies and get ourselves to work without the worries that have plagued us for years. It’s an exciting day for immigrant communities across New York. And it should be a day of which the whole state is proud.