Immigrants call on lawmakers to pass driver's license bill

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HAUPPAUGE -

Immigrants and advocates protested in Hauppauge Monday to push lawmakers closer to allowing immigrants living in New York illegally to obtain a driver's license.

The group Make the Road New York protested outside of Sen. Monica Martinez's office. The group says she is one of six Democratic state senators not supporting the Green Light Bill.

The demonstrators were denied access to the senator's office at first, but were eventually allowed inside. They met with the senator's chief of staff and expressed how they were upset that Martinez, who is an immigrant, hasn't said she will vote for the bill.

One demonstrator says she's disappointed that there hasn't been enough support for the bill that would allow immigrants in the country illegally to obtain a driver's license.

MORE: Demonstrators seek driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants

"We only have seven days left in the session and we still haven't heard from her position on the bill," says Eliana Fernandez, of Make the Road New York.

News 12 reached out to all six of the senators. Some of them say they do support the overall concept of allowing those immigrants to have a license. However, some of them say they have issues with the particular bills.

"On the concept, should every New Yorker be granted access to a driver's license, that is absolutely something we support, however, I said it on Friday, this is not a bill that's exactly black and white," says Martinez's chief of staff.

In a statement, Sen. Kevin Thomas said, "My concern is that the Green Light Bill, in its current form, will do more harm than good for our immigrant communities. I have consulted with experts and advocates in addition to doing my own extensive research on this issue. Immigration enforcement agencies, including ICE, have been known to communicate informally with DMVs to obtain information. I have yet to hear this concern adequately addressed."

Sen. John Brooks' office released a statement on the issue saying, "Sen. Brooks recognizes that driver's licenses are an important issue in the immigrant community. However, he is still not convinced that its strong opposition would allow it to become the beneficial, problem solving mechanism it has to be in order to succeed. Therefore, he has not committed himself to supporting it at this time, but continues to work with his colleagues in the Senate to build a better capacity and consensus for passage and overall community acceptance."

Also concerned about the bill is Sen. Jim Gaughran.

"We really have to make sure the people receiving the driver's licenses aren't people that have bad driving records," says Gaughran.

Despite concerns, Fernandez says the bill would be a win-win for everyone.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky's office said he is evaluating these bills.

If the bill is passed, New York would be the 13th state to allow immigrants who are here illegally the right to have a driver's license. The Democrat-led Assembly is expected to vote on the bill as early as tomorrow.

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