Lines of undocumented immigrants appeared outside a number of New York State Department of Motor Vehicle (NYS DMV) offices Monday after a new law went into effect.
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The state passed the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act, which allows any person over 16 years of age to apply for a state driver's license regardless of U.S. citizenship status, made its official debut Monday, causing an influx of people to flood DMVs across the state.
"As expected, we experienced larger crowds Monday – and in preparation, the NYS DMV added resources, like kiosks, to assist customers in the offices whose transactions can be completed online, updated our reservation system, adjusted staffing levels and encouraged customers to use our website to prepare for their visit, which improves the wait times for everyone in the office," NYS DMV Assistance Commissioner of Communications Lisa Koumjian told FOX Business.
"DMV staff continuously walked the line of customers to offer forms, helpful information and to make reservations for customers who were not able to complete their transaction," Koumjian added.
Those applying for licenses who do not have a U.S. Social Security number can now use other forms of ID such as passports, licenses and birth certificates issued by other countries to obtain a license in New York under what's known as the "Green Light Law." Applicants must still obtain a permit and pass a driver's test before receiving their IDs, which cannot be used for federal purposes.
The Green Light Law is supposed to make tasks like commuting, grocery shopping and medical appointments easier for non-U.S. citizens.
"It's kind of life-changing," 26-year-old Adriana Gonzalez, whose parents are undocumented, told the Times. "Driving is the most fearful part of our lives."
Lines at DMV offices in New York city wrapped around buildings, and workers had to turn away crowds of people who had already been waiting for hours as early as 12:30 p.m. because employees could not except any more applicants for the day, the Times reported.
Rensselaer County DMV clerk Frank Merola told the Times that his office would not be accepting foreign documents for licenses despite the rollout of the new law because employees had not been adequately trained to determine what legitimate foreign passports look like and how to identify fraudulent documents.
"In all the years I've been here, we've never taken foreign documents," Mr. Merola told the Times. "Now, they want us to stand at the counter and make a judgment."
New Jersey's state legislature passed a similar bill Monday.
New Jersey Republican Assemblyman Erik Peterson expressed concerns that the bill accommodates people who have broken the law by living in the country undocumented during a State House hearing last week, according to the Times.
"They've broken the law to get here," Peterson said. "So, you're accommodating people who have broken the law?"
Motor Vehicles Commissioner Sue Fulton responded to Peterson's concern by saying the purpose of the law was to increase driver safety, NBC 4 New York reported.