BRIDGETON, N.J. — As part of a series of actions across the state over the last several years to demand the state government provide access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, over 100 people marched here March 17. Cosecha New Jersey, which organized the protest, announced that it has called for a statewide protest in Perth Amboy May 1.
The march began and ended with testimony from participants on the impact of not being able to get driver’s licenses. Along with workers from Bridgeton, participants came from Red Bank, Elizabeth, Passaic, Perth Amboy, Lakewood, Vineland and other cities and towns.
“I’ve lived in Bridgeton for 30 years and it’s always the same story,” Marco Antonio Ibarra told the crowd. “It’s a business for the Bridgeton police. They see that we are driving a car with out-of-state plates and they stop us because they know we won’t have a license.”
“When we go to court, there’s an interpreter who claims he’s there to help us,” Ibarra said. Of course for a fee. “He says he can get the charge lowered to driving with an expired license.”
In New Jersey the maximum fine for driving without a license is $500, but it’s less for driving with an expired one. Immigrants without papers recognized by the government also run the risk that cops will turn them over to the immigration police.
Marchers chanted “Licencias sí! Promesas no!” (Licenses yes! Not promises!) This is a reference to the promise by Gov. Phil Murphy during his 2017 election campaign that he would change the law so that undocumented immigrants could get a driver’s license.
“A driver’s license is not a privilege, it’s a necessity,” Norma Morales, from Lakewood, told the crowd. “As mothers, we have to take our kids to school, go shopping, go to work. Like every parent we have to earn our bread.
“We earn too little to be giving it away to taxi companies,” she said. “And we know what is waiting for us if we get a ticket. It’s not going to be $20, it’s going to be a week’s wages.”
Cándido, a worker from New Brunswick, said that “the current administration in Washington says we are criminals, that it’s the worst people of our countries who come here. But that’s a lie.
“Everyone of us came here to work honorably,” he said. “And what’s wrong with that? Everyone who lives here comes from immigrants who came from some other place and have enriched this country.
“Some of us are working two full-time jobs, some a full-time and a part-time job,” he added. “Aren’t we worthy of having a license? We deserve it because we work hard.
“Only by uniting in struggle can we make changes. No one will do it for us,” he said.
Lea Sherman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey State Assembly, also addressed the marchers. “The bosses and their government of Democrats and Republicans divide us — American born and immigrant, men and women, Caucasian and Black,” she said. “They blame immigrants, scapegoat immigrants. They use this prejudice to make big profits. Their ability to succeed in keeping us fighting among ourselves weakens the whole working class, pushes us all down.
“This isn’t just an issue for immigrant workers. It is a working-class issue for all of us,” she said.
“That’s why the Socialist Workers Party calls for amnesty for all immigrants, for driver’s licenses for all, for the labor movement to take up the fight in defense of immigrant workers, for unity among all workers.”
The May 1 International Workers Day march will start at 10 a.m. at 260 High St. in Perth Amboy. “We are tired of unjust tickets, of having to go to court, and tired of the danger that at any moment we can be separated from our families,” Cosecha says on its publicity for the march. “In New Jersey, driving is not a luxury, it’s a necessity and that’s why we are going to march on May 1 and demand driver’s licenses once and for all.”