By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) – Illegal immigrants to the United States will be able to obtain driver’s licenses in New York under a bill passed by the state legislature on Monday and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The state Senate in Albany voted 33-29 to approve the legislation, which previously passed in the Assembly. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature.
New York will join at least a dozen other states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, becoming the second most populous state after California to take that step.
Many Republicans in New York opposed the measure, which was passed after Republican President Donald Trump moved to crack down on illegal immigration on several fronts.
New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy in a statement said the bill was one of several measures demonstrating the state’s Democrats “are in lockstep with leftist radicals and could care less about the priorities of taxpaying New Yorkers.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, had expressed concern that if the bill was enacted it would create a database of undocumented immigrants that federal authorities could use to deport them.
But the New York state attorney general has declared the bill had safeguards against that, Cuomo’s legal counsel, Alphonso David, said in a statement.
Cuomo signed the bill on Monday night, his spokesman Peter Ajemian said in an email. It will take effect before the end of the year, according to the text of the measure.
New York state Senator Luis Sepúlveda, the measure’s Democratic sponsor, said in a statement it will benefit the children of illegal immigrants by allowing their parents to drive them to school.
“In a time when immigrants’ rights and livelihoods are being severely threatened, the Green Light Bill is a clear message that we New Yorkers will always choose to lead with courage and love and to fight for everyone’s right to the American Dream,” Sepúlveda said.
He also said it will improve safety on the roads.
In California, hit-and-run accidents decreased after illegal immigrants were granted driver’s licenses beginning in 2015, according to a study by Stanford University researchers that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2017.
The authors of the study suggested that, before the law took effect, illegal immigrants were more likely to flee the scene of an accident because their vehicles were unregistered and they feared having them impounded.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)