BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is making a bold call. He wrote letters to county clerks in New York State suggesting they use the Whistleblower Hotline to report any suspected undocumented immigrants seeking a driver’s license under the state’s new Green Light law.
The new law, passed earlier this week by the state legislature, and signed by Governor Cuomo, would allow those undocumented immigrants living in the state to apply for a driver’s license.
But several county clerks in Western New York, including Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns, are vowing not to enforce the new law.
Mychajliw says the Whistleblower Hotline is used to forward information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The comptroller says he has added a new feature to the hotline that “allows County Clerks and/or their employees who suspect an illegal alien has requested a driver’s license to provide an anonymous tip that will be forwarded by the Comptroller” to ICE.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz responded to the announcement on Twitter blasting the idea and calling it “an abuse of county resources.”
Poloncarz says the hotline is for “citizens to report the waste, fraud and abuse of county resources. His Tweet when on to say if the “comptroller wants to create his own hotline to advance his own political ambitions he should pay for it.”
7 Eyewitness News senior reporter questioned Mychajliw asking that people could be very critical of using the hotline for that purposed.
"They can – I'll take their criticize all day long – I will never back down," replied Mychajliw.
The county executive is not conducting any media interviews on the topic, but he did issue a written statement addressing the topic of voting.
“The county executive created the whistleblower hotline when he was in the office of the county comptroller as a way for citizens to anonymously and confidentially report the waste, fraud and abuse of county resources. Using the whistleblower hotline for anything other than the reporting of abuse of county resources is, in itself, an abuse of county resources. The comptroller’s use of the county’s whistleblower hotline to promote his own political ambitions is an abuse of county resources. If he wishes to set up a statewide hotline he should do it using his own personal or political campaign resources, not on the taxpayers’ dime.”
Mychajliw says the hotline would protect the clerks without fearing the governor would remove them from office.
"I have a fundamental core belief that illegal immigrants should to have a driver's license in New York State," said Mycajliw.
Mychajliw insists - as fiscal watchdog - it will cost taxpayers money because the clerk's office will have to add staff to process the licenses. He calls Poloncarz a quote "coward" for not saying if he supports or opposes driver's licenses for undocumented workers.
"He can attack me all day long - and that’s fine, but at the end of the day – the taxpayers need to know and answer from –the chief executive of Erie County - does Mark Poloncarz support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants?" stated the comptroller.
We asked a spokesman for the county executive for an answer to the question. He office emailed a response saying quote "nothing further from the county executive on that topic at this time."
Poloncarz also responded to questions about the County Clerk's Kearns request to have the County Attorney's Office "commence" a lawsuit on his behalf against the Green Light law. The county executive says that after consultation with County Attorney Michael Siragusa, he has directed the county attorney's office to file for a "declaratory action" on behalf of Kearns in federal court "to determine the constitutionality" of the Green Light bill.
The written statement noted that if a federal judge deems the new law to be constitutional, then the county executive would expect "all county officials and employees to respect the decision of the court."
Poloncarz also indicated the County Attorney’s Office informed him that "a declaratory action can be filed and in all likelihood a decision rendered prior to the Green Light bill taking effect."