Illegal aliens in New York will be permitted to obtain driver’s licenses beginning next week after a legal challenge was dismissed. This will make New York the 13th state to allow the practice.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Green Light Law earlier this year, which allows anyone to apply for a driver’s license regardless of immigration status—and neither will they require a Social Security number.
“After waiting 18 years to have their right to drive restored, thanks to our Legislature, New York can now officially join 12 other states in making driver’s licenses legally available to all residents,” New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director Steve Choi argued this week that it will make roads safer and the economy stronger.
“This is a major step forward for all New Yorkers as we keep building New York to live up to its full potential of equity, opportunity, and justice,” said state Sen. Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx). “We also look forward to the significant economic and safety benefits the law will bring to communities across our state.”
The controversial legislation faced multiple lawsuits. Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns, whose lawsuit was dismissed last month, argued that the measure violated federal law and would make New Yorkers less safe.
“My concern is that, after 9/11, New York state put a prohibition on illegals having driving licenses and now with REAL ID in 2005 after we were attacked there will be a gap from today to Oct. 1 that anyone who is here illegally can get into a federal building and can fly on our airplanes and cross our border,” he said Saturday on “Fox & Friends.”
Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that approximately 265,000 illegal aliens in New York will get driver’s licenses in the next three years, with more than half from New York City, according to The Associated Press.
The Department of Motor Vehicles has been providing training and devices that can authenticate documents, although some clerks have warned that they are still not prepared when the law takes effect. Kearns said they have received only an hourlong webinar.
“I am now going to have to accept a report card from a foreign country and … a foreign passport as authenticated documents. I myself as the clerk am going to have to do that,” Kearns said. “We used to have to rely on a third party, the fed government, to do that so they have diminished a New York driver’s license, and we are very concerned for our safety and security because western New York is a border to Canada.”
“I have to be 100% certain that that document is a valid document,” he said.
“I’m just really stressed,” Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt said this week. “Across the board and the state, there’s going to be longer lines, more frustration and people not understanding.”
The Cuomo administration has made it clear clerks cannot choose to disregard the law.
“Local officials, including the county clerks who run DMV offices, cannot choose which laws they like and which they will disregard,” Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Lisa Koumjian said in a statement. “If a clerk is unwilling to follow state law, he or she should resign their office.”
Kearns has promised to personally evaluate every illegal alien application. He believes the law is part of a broader power play by Albany that will ultimately lead to voter fraud.
“This is all a power grab for the ballot box in New York, trying to give illegals the right to vote,” he said.
Clerks in Rensselaer, Niagara, and Allegany counties were among those who had also told local media outlets they will not grant the licenses after New York this week became the 13th state to authorize them.
New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director Steve Choi said the group expects every county clerk to uphold the law and that they’re ready to take clerks to court.
The Cuomo administration has also sent a warning to clerks this week.
“Local officials, including the county clerks who run DMV offices, cannot choose which laws they like and which they will disregard,” said Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Lisa Koumjian in a statement. “If a clerk is unwilling to follow state law, he or she should resign their office.”
Includes reporting from the Associated Press