Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner announced Monday her support for a campaign that aims to give Central New Yorkers driver's licenses regardless of immigration status. About two dozen activists at the Worker’s Center of Central New York looked on as she signed a document urging the state to approve Green Light New York. Miner says a license not only allows people to have access to community resources but also makes the roads safer.
"Whether that is enrolling your child in school, whether that is being able to say to the police this is where I live -- all of those things that those of us who have these kind of documents take for granted everyday," Miner said. "If we want to make sure people are safe and they don't get taken advantage of, then we have to bring them out of the shadows, and one way to do that is give them documentation that shows who they are.”
New York would join 12 other states that offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Jacqueline Travis is from Bolivia, and is grateful for Miner’s support.
“I get up every morning like you get up every morning: you turn the car on and you don't think about, 'is today going to be the day that I get stopped because of a racial profile?' Travis said. "This country's been built of immigrants. This is compassion. This is humanity. This is brother and sister. This is community."
Activist Aly Wane says it’s important not to issue licenses to drivers based on immigration status because immigrants without recognized identity are usually seen as criminals.
"Having a driver's license is such a big deal in this environment," Wane said. "A lot of people that I know who have been deported simply because they were driving around without driver's licenses. So something as small as that can lead to you being separated from your family members, spouses, your children."
Green Light New York was launched last week in Albany to help immigrants establish their legal identity.