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By: Joseph Jastrzemski
Niagara County Clerk
Today is a disappointing day for New York as it marks the implementation of the state’s legislation to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. After numerous attempts to dissuade Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders to put the brakes on New York’s “Green Light” law, common sense and public interest have once again finished second to politically convenience and special interests.
For months, county clerks across our state called upon Gov. Cuomo and our state’s DMV Commissioner to work with county clerks and ensure that the implementation of this legislation was done properly, yet our calls went unanswered. There are still several areas of concern regarding this legislation ranging from national security to public safety and taxpayer costs.
On Friday, I was joined at a press conference by clerks from Erie, Genesee, Allegany, and Wyoming counties as well as State Senator Rob Ortt in raising the alarm about this soon to be enacted law.
The first concern is in regard to national security. Although the NYS DMV outlines that these new licenses for illegal immigrants cannot be used for federal purposes, they neglect to inform concerned citizens that this aspect of the identification does not go into effect until the implementation of the Real ID Act. Until October 1 of 2020, these “Green Light” IDs may still be used to enter federal facilities or to travel on airlines. The ability to do so corresponds with the second point of concern raised by clerks across New York State, implementation.
Not only is it naïve, but also unreasonable to expect DMV workers around our state to decipher and verify foreign documentation for ID purposes. The training provided by New York State consisted of a 45-minute “webinar,” and one-way conference calls between the DMV Commissioner and county clerks where questions were unable to be asked. This training was simply insufficient. Documents such as foreign marriage licenses to report cards are now going to be acceptable forms of identification for those wishing to get these new licenses, yet are wholly unacceptable for those American citizens attempting to obtain a license.
Finally, the most concerning is the directive for clerks and DMV workers to stand down and turn a blind eye to those attempting to register to vote with these new licenses. The directive from the top-down has been to allow these individuals to register to vote, and wait until the proper authorities catch these individuals. This is a dangerous message New York is sending to the residents of our state and it undermines our democracy.
Gov. Cuomo should have pulled the breaks on this “Green Light” law months ago. I’d like to personally thank Sen. Ortt for standing with county clerks from across WNY against this disastrous legislation.