ALBANY - A pair of state lawmakers are renewing a push to allow immigrants in the country illegally to apply for New York driver's licenses -- a decade after then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer led an ill-fated effort in favor of it.
A few hundred immigrants from across New York gathered Tuesday at the state Capitol, lending their support to a bill in the state Assembly that would create a limited license available to any state resident, regardless of immigration status.
A limited license holder would be allowed to drive within the state. But the license wouldn't meet federal identification standards for flights and border crossings.
The bill comes 10 years after Spitzer made the issue one of his priorities upon taking office in 2007.
Spitzer's plan, however, was met with a wave of backlash from state lawmakers and local clerks, ultimately causing him to drop it.
Assemblyman Francisco Moya, a Queens Democrat sponsoring the bill, said driving is a necessity in most parts of the state and it "should not be an impossible task" for anyone in the state.
He said his bill is particularly important now given President Donald Trump's focus on illegal immigration.
"By not providing undocumented immigrants a legal avenue to operate a vehicle, we are in effect guaranteeing their deportation," Moya said. "All it takes is one traffic stop for an immigrant to be ripped from the life they built in this country."
Moya was joined at a press conference Tuesday by Assemblyman Phil Ramos, a Long Island Democrat who co-sponsors the bill, and immigrants from across the state.
The bill is likely to face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, which opposed Spitzer's push 10 years ago.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Moya's bill did not have a Senate sponsor.
Luis Jimenez, a dairy worker from Rochester, was among those who spoke at the rally. He touted immigrants' impact on the economy, particularly in New York, home to the second largest immigrant population in the nation.
“We want to obtain driver’s licenses to be able to move freely, because us as workers are a strong force in the economy of this state and country,” said Jimenez, who spoke through an interpreter. “I think it’s time for all of you to listen to us, especially elected officials.”