State lawmakers OK licenses for undocumented workers

Posted at 8:36 PM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-18 08:47:07-04

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — State lawmakers have passed a bill allowing immigrants in the U.S. illegally to acquire driver's licenses.

The measure passed the state Assembly last week and was approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate on Monday.

Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law shortly following the approval, but did express concerns on Monday about immigration officials possibly using license information to target people in the country illegally.

On Monday evening, Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David, issued this statement, saying Governor Cuomo will sign the bill:
"The Solicitor General was asked to review bill number A3675-B/S1747-B to ensure that undocumented individuals who apply for driver's licenses or identification cards would not be unintentionally exposed to a Federal government seeking to use their information for deportation. In response, the Attorney General stated that she believes there are "safeguards" in the bill, and it can be defended; in other words, it cannot be weaponized to be used against undocumented individuals. The Solicitor General, a former federal prosecutor and former Acting U.S. Solicitor General, who presumably knows whether or not the relevant information can be safeguarded, has remained unresponsive on this critical issue. With that said, based on the Attorney General's representation, the Governor will sign the bill.
"Governor Cuomo has supported this policy for over a decade. The key to this bill is not the political intent but the legal effect. We hope the Attorney General's assessment is correct for the safety of the thousands of undocumented individuals who are relying on her legal opinion."

Locally, all State Senators voted along party line, with Republicans voted against, and Democrats voting for.

State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst) believes that the so-called "Green Light Bill" does not provide the same protections and restrictions that the other twelve states that issue licenses to undocumented immigrants.

“Today’s passage of the Green Light Bill is very troubling to me. I do not agree with granting driver’s licenses to those who enter the country illegally. This bill goes too far," Ranzenhofer said.

In a tweet, Attorney General Letitia James publicly announced her support for the Green Light Bill, adding that it has "ample" protections for those who apply for driver's licenses.

Senator Rob Ortt (R-C-I, Ref-North Tonawanda) takes his concerns a step further, saying the passage of this legislation is a public safety concern.

"A majority of New Yorkers don’t want this legislation because it raises serious safety and voting fraud concerns, but mostly because it – at its basic core – undermines federal law and the sanctity of our borders,” Ortt said.

Senator Tim Kennedy (D) told 7 Eyewitness News ahead of the vote that he supports the bill saying in part, "We're protecting people across the state. We're ensuring that our roads are sage and that we are strengthening our economy at the same time."

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns says he will not enforce the Green Light Bill. Legislation that would grant the governor the option to remove county clerks if they don't approve drivers licenses for undocumented workers remains in Senate committee.

"In all my years, almost seven years of Albany and thousands of bills that we passed, in my time as an elected official, I think this is the most dangerous bill that could impact New York State and it could be one of the most expensive to the taxpayers," Kearns said.