Proposed state legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for New York State drivers licenses is a deceptively brilliant idea and, despite some criticism, a proposal with no downside.
There are the usual mumbles from those opposed to providing a path to citizenship for anyone in the country illegally.
But this proposal does nothing of the sort. It will require the same safeguards all of us go through to get a license — a written exam and a road test — but a successful candidate will not be given citizenship status.
We have written, at some length, about the current problems undocumented immigrants have getting to and from work. They can’t get licenses, so they drive illegally. They get caught, and each time the seriousness of the offense stiffens. Ultimately, felony charges are lodged and deportation proceedings commence.
But unlicensed — and untrained — drivers have the potential to commit a far more serious crimes: assault with a deadly weapon. Plus, they have no insurance and they have no registration. We don’t even know who they are in some cases.
Yes, we bemoan the lack of public transportation that makes it imperative to have access to a vehicle on the East End, but that situation is not going to change for now.
Licensed, insured drivers will be held accountable should they break the law, but with the proper training, the accident rate should fall as well. It will put more undocumented workers on the road in legal cars who can then help with the burden of shepherding kids, babysitters, and co-workers.
Issuing licenses will have the added benefit of making court appearances easier to track and to cut down on scofflaws who continue to flaunt the law.
The Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island and other local advocacy groups are shepherding in a new era of communication, and our local police forces get credit for being responsive.
We are not an Us against Them community. Some places on Long Island are. We respect rules over rancor hereabouts. A spirit of cooperation has always had firm roots here. Now, it is beyond that: Our children comingle in school and our neighbors and friends are, in many cases, from different cultures. The next logical process to complete assimilation is to eliminate the barriers that prevent it. A simple thing like a driver’s license will prove to be a key in accomplishing this.