Since nothing seems to be happening on reforming immigration policy at the national level, several New Jersey lawmakers are working on legislation that would resolve some major flaws on a statewide basis.
On June 30 members of the CoFiA board reviewed the wording of two laws that are under consideration.
One would propose that people who are presently ineligible to receive regular drivers licenses be allowed to apply for a “Driving Privilege Card” (Assembly bill 2135, proposed by Assemblywoman Quijano and Assemblyman Cryan). While we would like to see the bill strengthened, the Board felt that it would be very helpful because people who already have to drive would be able to do so legally. They also pointed out that it would improve safety for everyone, and be an additional source of income for New Jersey.
The second is a bill concerning penalties for wage theft, which is a big issue for working people in our area. Sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Quijano and in the Senate by Senator Weinberg, the bill would double the penalties for an employer found guilty of cheating workers out of their pay. The CoFiA Board recommended that the bill be amended slightly to emphasize civil rather than criminal penalties; the latter are seldom used. In our experience, the most effective approach to collecting unpaid wages is an appeal to the employer’s conscience. However, the prospect of facing an investigation by the Department of Labor can also be a strong incentive. A very important part of this bill is the section that would allow qualified community organizations to represent workers in court. They are often at a great disadvantage unless they have a lawyer.
CoFiA is in conversation with the New Labor organization and other groups about these bills, and hopes the legislators will schedule hearings in early fall.