State Sen. Ronald Rice is willing to back a bill providing drivers’ licenses to immigrants in the country illegally, but only if the legislature advances bills introduced by members of the Legislative Black and Latino Caucuses.
“Although I have some reservations about this new legislation, I would willingly overlook them for the greater good of helping immigrants get a secure foothold in our society, build a better life here in America and contribute to its success. I know that when any disadvantaged segment of our state advances, we all benefit,” he said. “However, I cannot vote to support this bill unless and until similar bills that have been ignored in legislative committees are moved forward.”
Rice, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, urged legislative leaders to advance five bills that would make it easier to restore suspended licenses, raise the bar for child-support-related suspensions and provide for suspension alternatives, among other things.
Those bills, he said, have moldered in the statehouse for months.
The legislature is set to hold a vote on the immigrant driver’s license bill on Dec. 16. The bill was held for months before the start of the lame duck session, when a vote on the measure would not hurt Assembly Democrats running for re-election in competitive districts.
“These bills, introduced by members of New Jersey’s black and Latino legislative caucuses and other lawmakers, have languished in a State House limbo, ignored and dismissed,” Rice said. “It is an affront to all right-minded legislators. More importantly, it is an insulting injustice to the people of New Jersey, especially the people of color, the poor and single woman head of household residents most affected by these unfair laws and practices.”
Over the past two months, Rice has more than once gone after Democratic leaders in Trenton, claiming Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin were patronizing black legislators.
“Justice isn’t a piecemeal proposition. It is the foundation of our nation. As such, every resident in New Jersey deserves it. Therefore, I won’t use my vote to favor one group over another. Especially when ‘the other’ has been ignored for so long,” Rice said. “I hope our legislative leadership will stop forgetting that even though we’re not all citizens, none of us — regardless of color, economic status, background or neighborhood — is a second-class citizen.”