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Driver’s Licenses for the Undocumented Are Approved in Win for Progressives

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“By passing this needed legislation, we are growing our economy while at the same time making our roads safer,” she said in a statement. “This is the right step forward for New York State as we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level.”

But others offered impassioned defenses of the rights of the estimated 940,000 undocumented immigrants in New York, the third-largest population in the country, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit group.

“We keep hearing illegal, illegal, illegal. And it angers me, infuriates me, because no human being is illegal,” Senator Andrew Gounardes, who defeated a Republican in South Brooklyn last year, said. “We dehumanize and we delegitimize people who are our brothers and sisters in humanity.”

Senator Luis Sepúlveda, the bill’s sponsor, said immigrants were “the backbone of this state and country.”

He added, “You deserve to live a life without fear.”

Earlier Monday, Mr. Cuomo had expressed concern that the bill would create a database of the undocumented, making them vulnerable to the federal government. He suggested that he might veto the bill unless the state solicitor general said otherwise.

But the state attorney general, Letitia James, who oversees the solicitor general, said in a statement several hours later that the bill afforded “ample protections” for immigrants. Mr. Cuomo’s office said he would sign the bill shortly after.

The debate over driver’s licenses has a long, fraught history in New York. Before 2001, immigration status did not determine eligibility for a license. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, issued an order requiring applicants to have a Social Security number, citing fears about national security.



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