By JIM KEVLIN• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – By presstime, no word had been received from President Trump’s regional representation on whether the Justice Department will go to court to stop New York State’s “Green Light” law from going into effect Dec. 14.
The “Green Light” law would require the state’s county clerks who operate state Department of Motor Vehicle offices locally to issue driver’s licenses to what some people call undocumented residents and other call illegal aliens.
Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner wrote the first letter to Trump last week, asking the president to direct the Justice Department to intervene. Within two or three days, 35 county clerks in all, including Otsego County’s Kathy Sinnott Gardner, he written similar letters.
All but one were Republicans, Hayner said in an interview. The sole Democrat was the Oneida County clerk, Sandy Deperno.
According to Sinnot Gardner, the president of the state County Clerks Association, Judith Hunter of Steuben County, has summoned members to a meeting July 8 in Syracuse. The local clerk said she plans to attend, and will say more about the issue after that.
Hayner’s letter to Trump said that, while other states have similar laws allowing undocumented or illegal residents to get driver’s licenses, none have gone as far as the bill passed by the Democratic state Legislature this year and signed by Governor Cuomo.
It prohibits the state’s county clerks from sharing any driver’s-license information with federal immigration authorities. Since county clerks take oaths to administer both the state and U.S. Constitutions, Hayner believes the new law is requiring clerks to break one law or the other.
Sinnot Garner agrees, but has another concern. The state DMV installed “customer facing devices” in county DMV offices a few months ago, where driver’s-license applicants are required to check a box indicating if they have registered to vote or not.
If someone checks the “no” box, his or her material is sent automatically to the county Board of Elections, which registers them, the Otsego clerk said, without knowing if they are citizens or not.