New Jersey Controversy Over In-State Tuition, Driver's Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Governor Corzine disagreed with some recommendations from the panel he created. (Photo: NJ Dept. of the Public Advocate)

Governor Corzine disagreed with a recommendation by the panel he created in 2007. (Photo: NJ Dept. of the Public Advocate)

New Jersey has become the latest state to try to fill the gap created by the lack of federal immigration reform. Last week an advisory body created by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine recommended that the state issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and that state colleges allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates.

The Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy issued a 123-page report with a list of measures New Jersey could take to implement “a comprehensive and strategic statewide approach to successfully integrate” some 400,000 undocumented immigrants into the state population. [Visit the panel’s site for the full report or an executive summary in pdf.]

The reaction – much of it critical – has mostly concentrated on the recommendations about in-state tuition and driver’s licenses.

“Allowing illegal aliens to obtain ‘no questions asked’ state driving privileges would undermine New Jersey’s strict licensing laws,” The Gloucester County Times said in an editorial Sunday.

“…it’s a shame that (the panel) muddied the line between legal and illegal immigrants — and went too far, in our opinion, in a few of its recommendations,” The Press of Atlantic City said. “That tends to polarize the debate even further than it already is.”

Governor Corzine himself issued a statement to make clear he does not support the proposal for issuing driver’s licenses to the undocumented.

There are some recommendations, no matter how well intentioned, that cannot be accomplished without a comprehensive policy at the federal level, and drivers’ licenses for the undocumented is one of them.

This is a tremendously important but complex issue that cannot be resolved with piecemeal solutions at the state level absent of a comprehensive federal policy.

[Read full statement from Corzine here.]

Most Jerseyans apparently agree with their governor. According to The Associated Press, a recent Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll “found that out of 803 adults surveyed, 62 percent oppose allowing illegal immigrants living in the state to get some type of limited driver’s license. Just 33 percent favor the idea.”

Undocumented immigrants themselves are, of course, among the minority who support the proposal.

Alejandro Chavez, an undocumented immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, worked in the apple orchards of Washington state for years, driving to and from work with a valid state motor vehicle license.

When he moved to New Jersey seven years ago to work on a Morristown horse farm, he lost his driving privileges. The state told him he couldn’t transfer his driver’s license because he wasn’t a legal U.S. resident.


“We may be undocumented, but we invest a lot into this country,” said Chavez, who now pays $10 a day to get a ride to work. “I can understand that many believe we don’t deserve any rights at all, but I think it’s a better system to have people registered, and their identities verified.”

[The A.P.]

Raymundo Rodríguez immigrated to the U.S. legally but still cannot get a drivers license. (Photo: The A.P.)

Raymundo Rodríguez immigrated to the U.S. legally but still cannot get a driver's license. (Photo: The A.P.)

In some cases, strict licensing rules harm people who have immigrated to the U.S. legally, like Raymundo Rodríguez, originally from Puebla, México. He told The A.P. that, after having a license for over a decade, “delays in his green card application and complications in his work permit” rendered him unable to renew the document under N.J. laws.

The Governor’s office said that while Corzine found the license issue “problematic,” he did support “allowing all resident children in New Jersey the opportunity to attend college at the in-state rate.”

The advisory panel, created in August 2007 and headed by the state’s Public Advocate Ronald Chen, made many other recommendations in its report. Some include: improving linguistic competence in social service agencies; creating “cultural navigators” to help immigrants access the services they need; creating task forces by industry to ensure compliance with labor standards; improving bilingual and ESL education programs.

The panel said the state should not make enrollment mandatory in the controversial worker identification E-Verify program and that Corzine should work with the federal government towards a moratorium on work-site raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It said “community-based jail advisory boards” should be created to ensure basic human rights to those held at immigration detention centers.

The body also recommended that towns set up official hiring sites for day laborers, and that disaster preparedness plans take into account immigrant populations.


  1. Why not track and controll all drivers?

    Why encourage driving without a license & insurance?

    Why make life harder for the working poor and why harass them?

    Qualified children of immigrant parents should not have to pay up to 40 to 50% more to attend college.

    Why not encourage residents to improve thetr education? We spend large amounts for them in primary and secondary schools. Why waste our investment is the student is qualified?

    Give these kids a break, it doesn’t cost anything and we are just being meanspirited if we deny instate tuition.

  2. Richard Bond

    We will be safer if illegal aliens have drivers licenses.

    The problem with this argument is that the danger comes from people who can not drive well. If the licenses are available the illegal aliens who can not drive well and would fail drivers tests will still keep driving without licenses. There is a benefit to the illegal aliens from drivers licenses but it is not shared by us.

  3. Joe

    This is Insanity and a compromise that is making American citizenship go down the toilet. The Illegal’s will use this to get credit and run up bills to the heavens and then skip town going back to their countries of origin.

    Unless one is a Citizen having a license for illegal’s is ludicrous. You have to ask the bigger question and that is do they want Licenses? Quite a few Illegal’s are real criminals who have left their countries of origin. Some are child molesters and have been involved in other criminal activities so they would certainly NOT want to be on the radar screen.

    It will never end, some will want licenses but most I can bet will not because they don’t plan to stay here anyway. Being an American Citizen is not the concern for most of these Illegal’s.

    Eventually they will get the right to vote and they will vote Illegally minded individuals into office and thus a citizenry of criminal minded people running our towns and cities which will eventually turn into little Favala’s and third world empires. We expose all of this illegality on our Cable show.


  4. Jim Eckland

    We will be much safer if we enforce our immigration Laws! Why should ILLEGALS Be given anything except a Ride home and Fined !!

    Follow the Law like my Wife !! Do It Legally !! There Are No Excuses !! It should not be tolerated !! If those are rewarded for breaking the Law, then Why would anyone be stupid enough to Follow It !!

    Secure our borders and Enforce Our Laws !!

  5. Peter T.

    A DL is the key to many paths. Credit cards, rentals, mortgages, travel, not to mention it makes an illegal alien look legal. DUH? not to mention the fact that when I was growing up i always learned that driving is a privledg not a right. Illegal aliens do not have the right to drive no matter what. It is something that is earned just like citizenship and a making a living.

    Illegal aliens need to go back to where they came from and enough of these ecuses for why they shold be allowed to stay. Illegal aliens are liars from the get go. The second they decide toeither comer illegally or overstay their visas they have lost ALL credibility.

    And as far feeling sorry for breaking up families? they only have themselves to blame and they are always free to take their family with them. they left their families to come here so that excuse is null.

    Does anyone think of all the American Families that have been permanently broken because an illegal alien driver killed someone in their family? No all you hear about is some illegal crying that we are not giving them enough or that they were profiled.

    Hey if it walks like a duck….

    DEPORT!!! We cannot afford to document the 30 million illegals already here let alone the multitude of their family members who will be scrambling across the border. Whoo is going to process all these people?

    Our government cannot even keep up with passports for legal americans.

    Wake up people! Busses to the border are much cheaper and efficient. Not much paper work and it usually can be a one or two day trip. Just think of all the American Lives and jobs we can save.


  6. rak

    I don’t know- it seems to me that pur government is willing to give illegals the right to drive but yet keep chipping away at American teens and their right to drive. I oppose giving any illegal person a driving license and I also oppose putting any type of decal on any of my vehicles. Unfortunately, there are way tooooo many derilicts in the world and by putting a decal on the vehicle you are invitng trouble. NO way to both ideas!!

  7. Pingback: GOP Candidate for NJ Governor Against Driver’s Licenses, In-State Tuition for the Undocumented « Feet In 2 Worlds, Immigration News

  8. KIMIL

    illegals have citizen childrens and they have to drive to school, activite ,to hospital and shopping.even they driving car they have to.illegals driving car no incurance no licence if you have accident your incurance going increace who is the victim citizens,incurance companys,and economi.

  9. Filipe Mendonsa

    Why don’t give a valid DL to a ILLEGAL??????????

    That will be good for the economy and will help Goverment and Police to have at least some kind of I.D. for all the illegals in U.S. . In most cases when anything wrong happen not even with a picture from a surveillance camera will help Police get to illegals because nobody have records for this “illegals” , no pictures , no finger prints , etc…….

    These people who don’t agree with a DL for illegals they only thinking in themselfs and they are worryed about the “illegals” (in most cases) will be smarter than them ……….. WHAT A SHAME !!!!!!!!

    If they don’t have a valid DL what is going to happen is THEY WILL KEEP DRIVING WITHOUT A DRIVER”S LICENSE OR WITH A FAKE DRIVER’S LICENSE .

    Right now I fell so sorry about this LEGAL CITIZENS because in most cases they are LEGAL CITIZENS but the parents immigrate ILLEGALY to this country and they just born here ……….. This country has been and always will be a country of immigration no matter what .

    Do not see ILLEGAL ALLIENS as criminals but see ILLEGAL ALLIENS AS HUMANS ……….

    ILLEGAL ALLIENS also have rights , also the right to LIVE ……..

    Why don’t give a DL to an illegal adult and give a DL to a legal CHILD ????????? I personally I don’t agree that a 16 years old child have a DL because they are not prepared for the world can you imagine to drive a CAR ???????? A 16 years old child should worry about school not worry about DRVING A CAR !!!!!!!!!

    But again everyone is only looking about ILLEGAL ALLIENS to not drive ……….

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