VIEW FROM ALBANY
By State Sen. JIM SEWARD, R-Milford • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ALBANY – While the 2019 state legislative session concluded several weeks ago, discussion continues to swirl around one of the more controversial new measures approved this year – the so-called “Green Light” law.
he new law, which formally takes effect on Dec. 14, 2019, would permit illegal/undocumented immigrants to apply for standard driver’s licenses using forms of foreign identification. The majority of New Yorkers are against the idea and prior to the Senate vote on the bill, I heard from a great number of constituents who voiced strident opposition.
I voted NO on the bill because the thought of giving a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law is inconceivable. This measure is bad public policy that could put lives in
danger, rewards lawbreakers, and sends the wrong message to those who take the legal path to citizenship.
As I said, a number of my constituents expressed their thoughts to me regarding this bill, including several who recently came to our country LEGALLY or had close family members who have gone through the process. They were
among the most offended. They are now proud United States citizens, who followed the law, and take it as a personal affront that others are exploiting a shortcut.
The New York Association of County Clerks formally opposes the legislation, saying they lack the proper training or experience in recognizing foreign documents. The change would be a substantial unfunded mandate from the state, leaving counties to pick up the tab for hiring and training employees to deal with an influx of applicants.
New York also uses the DMV to enroll voters, creating new concerns over voter fraud. New York does not have any voter identification laws, unlike 35 other states. The states that permit illegal immigrants to obtain licenses require substantially tighter proof of identification and may impose limitations on driving to incentivize naturalization. None of those states relies solely on foreign documents for identification purposes.
While advocates claim that states freely grant licenses to illegal immigrants, that claim is patently false. Twelve states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico offer driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. However, what is left unspoken in the “Green Light” argument is that eight states require illegal immigrants to provide their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles with a tax identification number, tax returns, or proof that the applicant is a dependent of a taxpayer residing in the state.
For example, Utah only allows illegal immigrants to obtain licenses for a period of one year; the District of Columbia offers limited purpose licenses; and Connecticut requires that an illegal applicant file for citizenship.
The New York “Green Light” law does none of those things and creates a disincentive to naturalization when coupled with other initiatives passed this year, like free college tuition for illegal immigrants. It also does nothing, as advocates claim, to ensure that someone here illegally will remain at the scene of a serious accident if it could involve a potential felony charge that could lead to deportation.
Perhaps the people of Oregon got it right on this topic. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oregon lawmakers passed legislation in 2013 allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The measure proved to be so unpopular with the public that voters suspended the law 67 percent to 33 percent in a referendum the following year
Recently, Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law and he may not be alone. Several other county clerks around the state are considering joining Kearns’ suit or filing separate actions. One of the main reasons the clerks are opposed to the state law is that it would force them to break federal law. I stand with the clerks and fully support their efforts.
It is time we reprioritize in Albany and focus on jobs, lowering taxes, repairing our infrastructure, and putting law-abiding citizens first.
Senator Seward, R-Milford, represented
Otsego County in the state Legislature.