Senior Policy Analyst
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed a bill that lets residents who are undocumented obtain driver’s licenses, giving access to nearly 450,000 such residents and providing for safer roads, fewer uninsured drivers, more state revenue, and greater mobility for families in their daily lives. New Jersey is now the 15th state in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to provide driver’s licenses regardless of documentation, and the third state to grant access this year (after New York and Oregon; see map).
The move continues New Jersey’s recent progress on inclusive policies for residents who are undocumented, including eligibility for state tuition aid, funding for legal counsel in deportation cases, and a state attorney general directive that limits local authorities’ role in enforcing federal immigration laws.
It’s also part of a nationwide trend in which states have become fertile ground for inclusive and welcoming policies, as a recent National Immigration Law Center report highlights. This year, for example, campaigns in at least 21 states sought to grant or improve access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. And at least 19 states saw proposals to improve higher education access for students who are undocumented, many of which became law.
New Jersey has adopted three of the four inclusive policy recommendations we made for states in a recent report: driver’s license access, tuition equity, and broad wage protections. It should now do the fourth and expand access to health coverage to all children. And other states should work on any that they haven’t adopted.