The Latino Action Network is a grassroots organization composed of individuals and organizations that are committed to engaging in collective action at the local, state and national levels in order to advance the equitable inclusion of the diverse Latino communities in all aspects of United States society.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Debate on immigrant driver’s licenses simmers in N.J.


Staff Writer, The Record

Governor Christie says granting driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally is a homeland-security issue, so he won’t approve it.

Advocates agree on the security point. But they argue that ensuring such drivers are licensed and trained also is a matter of everyday safety to all New Jerseyans. And they are pointing to California — which has extended federally reviewed and approved driving privileges to its residents in the country without permission — as a model for New Jersey.

“This is not just an immigration issue, but a public-safety issue, and this will benefit everyone who is on the road,” said Jackie Zapata, advocacy coordinator for Wind of the Spirit, a non-profit in Morristown and part of a coalition pushing for legislation in New Jersey. “There is a huge need for this, and people are asking, ‘When?’”

A new bill to change the law in the state was introduced this month. But it already has its critics, who say any legislation that extends driving privileges to immigrants who live in the country illegally goes against federal immigration laws and that it will bring its own set of security concerns.

Advocates have been lobbying municipal officials this year. They say the legislation will not only make roads safer, but will require that newly legal drivers be insured. And because driver’s licenses cost $24, they said, the state will collect more revenue through the Motor Vehicle Commission.

The Record found immigrants in the country illegally who said they drive without licenses because they have to, for work and in raising children. But whenever they drive, some said, they fear being stopped.

“Every day, I recommend myself to God,” said Sugey Chavarria of Paterson. “It’s trauma for people to live in the shadows and to drive without a license, but it’s a necessity.”

Christie called driver’s licenses the most important form of identification and said he wouldn’t give them to people “who I cannot be sure who they are.”

“I am not doing it, and I don’t care how much income I lose. Because if I wind up compromising the homeland security of the state of New Jersey for some revenue from MVC through driver’s licenses, I would not be doing my duty,” he said last month on his monthly radio show on 101.5 FM. “As long as I’m governor, folks who are undocumented are not getting driver’s licenses, and I’ve said that from the beginning.”

But Johanna Calle, program coordinator at the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said that under the proposed law, the licenses would be federally approved, and pointed to California’s driver’s license for immigrants in the country illegally, a system approved by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

California licenses bear the words “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY,” and that is the type of licensing advocates seek for New Jersey, she said.

“Homeland Security gets to vet this, and this is for the purposes to drive,” she said. “Our goal is to change the governor’s mind, absolutely, and get him to approve it. … If he sees the issue for what it is, I don’t see why he wouldn’t support it.”

Trying again

Last year, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union, submitted a bill that would have extended driving-privilege cards to immigrants, regardless of their status. Those cards would have been used only for driving, not for purposes like identification.

This month, she filed a new bill changing the driving privilege cards to driver’s licenses. She said she did so after consulting with immigrant advocates in New Jersey and reviewing California’s system. Quijano plans to visit California soon and present findings to Christie’s office and state lawmakers.

“I know there are going to be challenges, and we will address them,” Quijano said. She stressed that the proposed law would require immigrants in the country illegally be “tested, trained, licensed, insured and accountable.”

“Getting unlicensed drivers that are untrained, untested and uninsured off the road is our goal,” she said. “The governor is welcome to his position, which is more political than it is policy-related, but it is up to us to educate the public, who can then persuade the governor to sign this legislation. Our goal is to have safe drivers on the roads of our state.”

But Ron Bass, founder of United Patriots of America in New Jersey, opposes the bill, saying it would violate federal immigration law. He also questioned how state motor vehicle offices would authenticate documents presented by foreign-born persons. People who have entered the country illegally, he said, have not been vetted by authorities.

The MVC staff “may know who you claim to be,” he said, “but your records from your country of origin are not looked into.”

There are more than 500,000 immigrants without legal permission living in New Jersey, and about 464,000 could benefit if driver’s licenses were available to them, according to a report last year by the New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Chavarria, of Paterson, is among them. More than a decade ago, she came from Costa Rica on a tourist visa, which has since expired. For years, she said, she drove with a Texas license but, when it expired a few years ago, she could not renew it. She drives only locally for the most part, she said, tending to her family and sometimes going to Bergen County to clean houses.

The mother of two said having a driver’s license also would provide valid identification. “By not having documents here,” she said, “you get discriminated against.”

Carlos Guaran of North Bergen bicycles each week to Palisades Park, seeking day work in landscaping and construction. Not being able to drive, he said, has limited his prospects, but he fears being stopped on the road by police.

Tomas Sipak, another day laborer seeking work in Palisades Park, said he’s lost opportunities when he’s had to reveal he doesn’t have a license. “A few people said that if I had a license they would get me a permanent job,’’ he said.

Newark OKs ID cards

This year, the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, a statewide coalition, is educating the public about the driver’s license bill. So far, it has gotten six municipalities to pass resolutions supporting the legislation. On Thursday, Newark became the first city in the state to approve giving city-issued identification cards to immigrants in the country illegally, another cause the coalition has advocated.

 Those cards can be shown to police in Newark and used to open bank accounts, advocates said. New York City launched its immigrant identification card this year.

“We have been pushing for the identification cards because we need some sort of identification if the licenses are not moving right away, so we are doing both,” said Calle.

A community forum on the licensing issue is set for July 18 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson.

Ten states and Washington, D.C., allow immigrants who are in the country illegally to drive, with most passing laws in recent years. California and Connecticut began issuing licenses in January, and Maryland, Nevada, Vermont and Colorado implemented programs last year. Alaska, Georgia and Maine allow limited driving privileges to certain immigrants. State lawmakers in Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Minnesota also have introduced bills.

In November, an Oregon referendum rejected allowing licenses for immigrants in the country illegally.

‘Bring people hope’

President Obama’s executive action aimed at giving temporary protection from deportation to millions of immigrants in the country illegally has stalled in the federal courts. And Zapata, the Wind of the Spirit official, said “something like this, that will involve more people, will bring people hope,” as immigrants await those court decisions.

Obama’s 2012 executive action shielded unauthorized youth and young adults from deportation if they had been brought into the country as children. Ann Morse, program director of the Immigration Policy Project at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that besides the concern for safety and to get unauthorized immigrant drivers insured, the executive action has spurred a growing number of lawmakers who want to extend driving privileges. The young adults who qualified for the deportation waivers received work permits and Social Security cards, and in many states, including New Jersey, are able to get driver’s licenses.

“That,” Morse said, “gave people a new frame to look at the issue and say, ‘Perhaps we need to see what our legislation, our regulations say and should we be considering the public safety aspects of this as well as the national security aspect of this?’”

State House Correspondent Melissa Hayes contributed to this article. Email: 

View the original story at:

Friday, April 10, 2015

In opposing Obama action on immigration, Christie is abandoning Latino community | Opinion

In opposing Obama action on immigration, Christie is abandoning Latino community | Opinion

By Rudy A. Rodas, Esq.

Gov. Chris Christie's sinking presidential aspirations have led him to join a federal lawsuit seeking to block the temporary relief from deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants working hard to build a new life in the United States. It is another desperate ploy along the campaign trail for a governor that in recent weeks has settled an environmental lawsuit with a potential donor for billions less than anticipated and has had the New Jersey Supreme Court strip his administration of its ability to enforce fair affordable housing standards.

Immigrants are just another stepping stone for the governor.

This latest politically motivated action counters the impact of the In-State Tuition Equality Law he signed in December 2013 which allows undocumented students educated in New Jersey schools to pay in-state tuition rates. By entering the lawsuit against President Obama's executive action, Gov. Christie puts our state on the side of those fighting against regulations that would give undocumented students permission to work legally in the United States, thus hindering their ability to pay for their college education.

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are the two major programs arising from the president's executive actions. They grant deportation relief and work authorization to the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and to undocumented students who arrived in our country as children. These programs were created by President Obama in response to Congress's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform. 

While the president cannot make laws, as part of his executive powers he has the discretion to determine immigration enforcement priorities. This executive power has been used in the past by both Republican and Democratic presidents to create temporary immigration relief programs. DAPA and DACA were created as temporary means to stop the separation of families and maximize the economic potential of undocumented immigrants contributing to our society.

When Gov. Christie signed the In-State Tuition bill, he articulated these same goals as the basis of his support of undocumented students: "Even if you're cold-hearted about this, you can agree with the common sense of the economics" he said. "Our job, I believe, as a government, is to give every one of these children, who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, an opportunity to maximize that investment." DACA and DAPA further accomplish these economic goals on a national and state level by increasing the Gross Domestic Product, reducing the deficit, raising tax revenue and raising average wages.

It’s illogical for Gov. Christie to fight against these economic benefits at a time when the state suffers.

Nationally, the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimates that over the next 10 years, these programs will increase gross domestic product by between $90 and $210 billion. The Center for American Progress estimates that DAPA could increase payroll tax revenues by to $21.2 billion over five years. In New Jersey that translates into $136 million in tax revenues over five years and the state's gross domestic product would increase by between $2.9 billion to $6.8 billion over the next ten years.

It's illogical and irresponsible for Gov. Christie to fight against these economic benefits at a time when the state suffers from sluggish state job recovery, successive downgrades of New Jersey's credit ratings, Atlantic City casino closures and an inability to pay into the pension fund. More importantly, the executive action programs provide an alternative revenue raising measure that does not involve raising taxes or slashing spending. Instead of developing economic policies that are beneficial for all New Jersey residents, Gov. Christie has wasted political capital by taking a stance that is tantamount to the endorsement of passive deportation that targets vulnerable, undocumented immigrants once advocated by failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

With an eye on the upcoming presidential elections, Gov. Christie actively courted the state Latino vote. Since he was re-elected handily by winning a majority of the statewide Latino vote, the Latino community and immigration advocates made it clear that in-state tuition equality was a policy priority. They compromised with Gov. Christie by reluctantly agreeing to a bill that did not include state financial aid for undocumented students. Similar to his failure to make pension payments and abandonment of his own Pension Reform Law, Gov. Christie has demonstrated a failure of leadership by abandoning both his own immigration policy and the community that made his presidential prospects viable.

Rudy A. Rodas, Esq., is the co-chair of the Latino Action Network's Immigration Committee.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sign the Petition Urging Governor Chris Christie to Withdraw HisSupport from the Lawsuit Opposing President Obama's Executive Actionfor Immigrants

The Latino Action Network (LAN) has sent a letter to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie urging him to withdraw his support for a lawsuit challenging President Obama's Executive Action for immigrants.  The lawsuit, filed by 26 states, has led to an injunction of the Executive Action on DACA and DAPA, delaying relief for immigrant families in New Jersey. 

Please join us in calling on Governor Christie to withdraw his support for the lawsuit against Executive Action for Immigrants by signing the petition below:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Christie Hypocrisy on Display: New Jersey Joins Lawsuit to Block Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with Mitt Romney during 2012 presidential campaign stop.  Romney at the time took the position that the United States should make life so hard on immigrants that they would deport themselves.
Christie Hypocrisy on Display

New Jersey Joins Lawsuit to Block Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration

For Immediate Release: March 26, 2015
Frank Argote-Freyre, President – 908-670-0552
Christian Estevez, Executive Vice President – 973-418-7012
Rudy Rodas, Co-Chair, Immigration Committee – 201-381-1819

Statement of the Latino Action Network Steering Committee

            Governor Christie yesterday, in a cynical political ploy, entered New Jersey into a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking an executive order by President Obama allowing some undocumented immigrants to remain in the country without fear of deportation. The move underlies the hypocrisy Governor Christie has always displayed towards the Latino community. To national audiences he has proclaimed himself a candidate with appeal in the Latino community while guarding any details about his national policies on immigration. New Jersey’s entry into the lawsuit, although nearly 20 percent of the state’s population are Latinos, should serve as a wake-up call to anyone in the community that considers him a friend.

Christie’s efforts to secure the Republican presidential nomination have led him to undermine one of the most significant bills he signed into law during his tenure as the State’s Chief Executive. When Christie signed the In-State Tuition Equality bill in 2013 at Union City High School, he essentially articulated the need for immigration reform as the basis of his support of undocumented students. The Governor said at the time:  “Even if you're cold-hearted about this, you can agree with the common sense of the economics.” “[O]ur job, I believe, as a government, is to give every one of these children, who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, an opportunity to maximize that investment.”

By fighting against the expansion of executive programs that would give undocumented students permission to work legally in the United States, Christie is hindering these students’ ability to pay for their college education.

President Obama announced the executive order last year after Congress failed again to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Elección Latina: March 13 – 14, 2015 at Rutgers University

Elección Latina: March 13 – 14, 2015

LUPE invites you to participate in this year’s Elección Latina (Ready to Run) at Rutgers University (Douglass Campus Center, New Brunswick, NJ) on March 13 and 14, 2015.

Part of LUPE’s mission is to increase the number of Latinas in public service through various channels. Whether you are interested in running for elected office now or in the future; if you are interested in working on a political campaign or would like to serve on a board or commission; Elección Latina (Ready to Run) will provide you with essential tools to better prepare you for the challenges ahead if public life is your passion. All attendees will also get the opportunity to learn from and network with many Latina trailblazers.

What:    Elección Latina (Ready to Run)

Where:  Rutgers University  (Douglass Campus Center, 100 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ)
When:   March 13 and 14, 2015

To register today, please  to go CAWP’s website.

Some scholarship opportunities still available:  Eleccion Latina Invitation Letter

Elección Latina 2012

Friday, February 20, 2015

Upcoming Immigration Seminars: Deferred Action

Several organizations have seminars scheduled over the next week to share information with the community regarding President Obama's Executive Order related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action  for Parents of U.S. Citizens (DAPA). Some of these seminars were scheduled prior to the recent developments in the U.S. courts temporarily enjoining the implementation of the Executive Order.  They were originally organized to provide the community with information provided by attorneys about the benefits of these programs and how the community can prepare to take advantage of them. However, given the resent developments, attorneys at these seminars will also be providing information about the court injunction and the impact that it will have on the roll-out of DACA and DAPA. 

A list of some of the events are listed below along with copies of the actual event announcements.  Please share widely. Also, feel free to contact the Latino Action Network at: to share similar events happening in your area. 

Hightstown: Saturday, February 21, 2015

Paterson: Saturday, February 21st and Saturday February 28th

Garfield: Saturday, February 28th

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Please read the statement below from Sec. Johnson’s office regarding the ruling concerning DAPA & DACA. 

Press Office
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Press Release  

Feb. 17, 2015

Contact: DHS Press Office, (202) 282-8010


I strongly disagree with Judge Hanen’s decision to temporarily enjoin implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction; in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it. 

Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned. Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA. 

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and even other courts have said that our actions are well within our legal authority. Our actions will also benefit the economy and promote law enforcement. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do.

It is important to emphasize what the District Court’s order does not affect.

The Court’s order does not affect the existing DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA pursuant to the guidelines established in 2012. 

Nor does the Court’s order affect this Department’s ability to set and implement enforcement priorities. The priorities established in my November 20, 2014 memorandum entitled “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants” remain in full force and effect. Pursuant to those enforcement priorities, we continue to prioritize public safety, national security, and border security. I am pleased that an increasing percentage of removals each year are of those convicted of crimes.  I am also pleased that, due in large part to our investments in and prioritization of border security, apprehensions at the southern border – a large indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally -- are now at the lowest levels in years.

For more information, visit><.