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Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now!

Felicia Persaud | 6/20/2013, 1:01 p.m.
Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now!

Dear Mr. President,

This week, New York City Public Advocate and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio appeared on national television and called for municipal IDs and even driver's licenses for undocumented migrants living in the Big Apple and across the Empire State.

He argued that while Congress tries to figure out a reasonable plan for comprehensive immigration reform, states like New York, with huge undocumented populations--750,000 of the nation's 11.7 million undocumented workers according to the Center for Migration Studies--should be able to implement a plan faster on the local and state level.

It is not the first time the idea has been floated. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer actually had tried to implement these rules but faced the wrath of right-wing conservatives who claimed it was state amnesty and a reward for "illegal aliens" for breaking the law.

De Blasio is right when he says we need to revisit the issue again, especially now as the U.S. and bigger cities like Boston and New York battle with the reality of terror assaults. We need to know the background of everyone who lives in the city and state so our law enforcement officials can be better prepared. We cannot do that with tens of thousands in the shadows.

So far, five states in the U.S. have approved driver's licenses for the undocumented, with Colorado lawmakers recently approving legislation to this effect and the Connecticut state Senate approving legislation early Thursday, May 30, that would allow immigrants to obtain driver's licenses regardless of their legal statuses. Immigrants would be able to obtain driver's licenses beginning in January 2015 in the bill, which passed 19-16 in the Senate. It passed the House of Representatives last week.

Applicants would need documentation proving their identities and showing they have lived in the state for at least 90 days. They also would have to pass driving tests and background checks verifying they have no felony convictions in the state. As Connecticut's governor, Dan Malloy, explained it: "This bill is first and foremost about public safety. It's about knowing who is driving on our roads, and doing everything we can to make sure those drivers are safe and that they're operating registered, insured vehicles."

He's absolutely right on the money. Now I think it's New York's turn to get this passed, especially because who knows when the Washington lawmakers are going to get their act together on comprehensive immigration reform?

I may get to letter 100 before anything happens, especially given Sen. Marco Rubio's flip-flopping on the bill he helped craft. But then again, what is new with the GOP?!

You may want to put in a call to your friends in New York to tell them to get cracking on this sooner rather than later.

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.