New push to give NYS driver's licenses to immigrant workers

Posted at 6:33 PM, Aug 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-22 07:10:10-04

An effort called "Green Light NY: Driving Together" held press conferences across New York State as members called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to use his executive powers to allow all immigrant food and farm workers to get a NYS driver's license - even if the worker is undocumented.

The group argues that New York's agriculture and food industry needs migrant workers because Americans are not interested in taking the jobs - and being able to get a license would help migrant families and take costs off of farmers for providing transportation.

"Farmers are worried about losing their workers.  And it is already happening," said Jennifer Connor, an organizer for "Justice for Migrant Families."

Green Light NY wants NYS to join 12 other states that issue driver's licenses without regard to immigration status.  Supporters of the idea say it will generate $57 million for the state's economy while helping farmers who will not be responsible for cost and logistics of transporting their migrant workers to the farm, grocery store or doctor's offices.

"Would it be better to have them licensed, documented, required to purchase insurance and all those things?  Absolutely," said Dennis Brawdy from Amos Zittel & Sons Farm in Eden.

While local farmers support the idea, it is controversial.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns is strongly against the idea.

"We have to remember that we are a border state with Canada and terrorism is a very important issue," said Kearns.

The county clerk said federal requirements for identification have greatly increased and allowing undocumented farm workers to get a driver's license would create a dangerous loophole.

"I believe federal law supersedes state law and I will follow the federal law," added Kearns, who said he would challenge any change in NYS law regarding the issuance of licenses to workers without proper documentation.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter takes a closer look at both sides of the issue.


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