BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns is vowing not to enforce the new "Green Light Law" approved by the state Legislature and signed by Governor Cuomo.
Kearns, a republican, told 7 Eyewitness News he is against the law that would provide a New York State drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.
"I will not do it. I’m not going to break the law," said Kearns. "I can't - in good conscious do this."
"It’s more than just driving – it’s a privilege – it’s a gateway document – it’s a breeder document- and I’m not going to be a part of that," remarked Kearns.
Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law Monday night after the state Senate approved it. It was previously approved by the state Assembly.
Clerk Kearns has written a letter to the Erie County Attorney Michael Siragusa saying he will not grant driver's licenses to immigrants living here illegally. He's also planning to file an action in federal court to challenge the law.
"I will not be grantig driver's licenses to illegal immigrants," Kearns wrote.
Advocates of the law say it gives immigrants the access they need to live in the state. Those immigrants would still be required to take a road test an learn the driving rules to gain their license.
We reached the the Western New York manager with the New York Immigration Coalition, Megan Maloney de Zaldizar, who defends the new law. She said those seeking a driver's license would still need to follow the rules
"They will still have to prove their identity. They will still have to prove the reside in New York State and more importantly they will learn the rules of the road. What this does is ensures everyone who is driving on the road – know the rules of the road and has insurance," said Maloney de Zaldizar.
There are many unanswered questions, such as auto insurance. Supporters of the law say rates will drop. But we reached out to the AAA of Western and Central New York, but they declined to comment for now
"There are so many flaws within this bill – there's so many things that are going to impact law abiding citizens and Erie County residents," Kearns said.
Kearns said the new law would force him to hire more staff to process all the licenses. He said no where in the bill did it explain how clerks offices were to pay for the added work.
Along with gaining a drivers license - undocumented immigrants would also be able to register to vote, although they are not U.S. citizens. Local democratic Erie County Board of Election Commissioner Jeremy Zellner tells us he's not clear yet on how the law will effect voting.
Zellner issued this statement to our newsroom:
"We are confident safeguards will be established with respect to this program that will prevent illegal voter registration and other unauthorized uses. It’s important to emphasize that voter fraud is and will remain virtually nonexistent in New York State."
Kearns is not certain how the Governor will respond to his refusal to process the licensees. He told us the Governor has the power to remove him.
Kearns says in refusing to process the application, he would direct them then to the State Department of Motor Vehicle offices.