I have been taken aback in recent months by the stridently conservative rightwing posture of The Freeman’s Journal (and Hometown Oneonta), but the edition of Feb. 13 was particularly glaring, and that prompts me to write.
First of all, among other features, there was your long, space-consuming editorial calling for the repeal of the “Green Light Law” because it prohibits the State’s DMV from turning over information about undocumented license holders to U.S. immigration officials.
Then, in a nearby column, there was an op-ed article, not a letter to the editor, but an actual op-ed praising Trump’s State of the Union Address written by someone with no credentials for writing such a piece other than being a devoted right-wing Republican.
Needless to say, personally, I happen to be in total support of the Green Light Law, totally opposed to its repeal, and clearly of the mind that elected government officials, like the Otsego County clerk, should be sanctioned for their biased and illegal actions vis-a-vis the law’s implementation.
As for the op-ed about the State of the Union Address, I don’t think the writer and I heard the same speech. But I am not writing to state why I think both columns are off base. My concern is of a different ilk.
I remember very well the days when two weekly newspapers were published in Cooperstown, The Freeman’s Journal and The Otsego Farmer. Although it was not nearly as bad as it is now, there was indeed political polarization back then.
The Freeman’s Journal was considered a Democrat newspaper with the focus of its editorials and the reporting of certain kinds of news
events leaning toward a Democratic point of view. The Otsego Farmer was a Republican newspaper with editorials and news coverage reflecting that party’s perspective.
In fact, I knew of many Republicans who absolutely would not subscribe to or read The Freeman’s Journal, considering it nothing but Democrat propaganda, and there were at least equal numbers of Democrats who would have nothing to do with The Otsego Farmer for the same reasons, Republican propaganda.
The interesting thing is that, in spite of their definite political leanings, there was a far more balanced presentation of opinions and news coverage in each one of those newspapers than there is in today’s Freeman’s Journal. Neither one was as slanted as The Freeman’s Journal has become.
Now that there is only one weekly paper coming out of Cooperstown (The Town Crier doesn’t count, because it’s nothing but a rehashing of the Daily Star.) it would be refreshing, and readers would be much better served and better informed if The Freeman’s Journal were to provide a more balanced and, as a result, a more enlightened kind of journalism.
A good place to start might be to invite competent, well-informed writers to consider the issues at hand from different perspectives and then to devote equal space to the intelligent airing of divergent opinions.
According to the Department of Homeland Security and the Feb. 13-14 editorial, “’Green Light’ Bad Law,” the only thing keeping undocumented workers from launching a 9/11-type attack is not having drivers’ licenses. Who knew? Be very, very afraid now that New York State’s Green Light Law allows people who pick and deliver apples to our stores and clean our buildings for sub-minimum wages can get drivers’ licenses.
Homeland Security’s Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told reporters on Feb. 10 the 9/11 terrorists had obtained drivers’ licenses in several states (not New York) “to help accomplish their evil mission.” It was a laughable attempt to justify President Trump’s banning New York State from using Trusted Traveler programs, which allow preapproved individuals expedited passage through airport security and immigration, because New York’s law has a provision that prevents ICE from accessing its DMV data.
Never mind the provision allows “federal officials to demand identification, photos, passport data and interviews from applicants for Global Entry and other security programs for travelers,” per a Feb. 6 New York Times editorial.
And never mind the multitude of factors in the 9/11 attacks, such as lax airport security, the terrorists had entered the U.S. legally on work and student visas, using airplanes as bombs was on few people’s radar, and we have completely changed our airport security and immigration policies since and because of the attacks.
Forget the fact that drivers’ licenses have played little to no role in terrorist attacks since 9/11, such as the December 2019 mass shooting at the Navy Base in Pensacola, Fla., that left three American sailors dead. A member of the Royal Saudi Air Force carried out that attack. He was in the U.S. and on a U.S. military base legally and it’s doubtful he had a driver’s license.
Cuccinelli also attempted to disguise Trump’s obvious intent behind his ban: revenge.
First, Trump’s timing of the ban was no coincidence. The Green Light law went into effect on Dec. 16, 2019, two days before Trump was impeached – clearly not the moment for Trump to go after it.
But in his State of the Union speech on Feb. 5, just hours after the Senate acquitted Trump of two impeachment articles, he falsely accused California and New York of allowing local officials in their “sanctuary cities” “to order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public instead of handing them over to ICE [Immigration and Custom Enforcement].”
Less than 24 hours later, Trump banned New York from the Trusted Traveler program.
The editorial dismissed reprisal as Trump’s motive for the ban, arguing it was “a larger push-back against the whole concept of ‘sanctuaries’” because he also went after New Jersey and Seattle. But why has he not done the same to Utah, which has sanctuary cities? Could it possibly be because Utah voted for Trump in 2016?
And since the editorial’s publication, Trump’s own words have shown another possible motive. On Feb. 13, hours ahead of his meeting with Governor Cuomo to find compromises on the ban, Trump tweeted, “(Cuomo) must understand that National Security far exceeds politics. New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits and harassment.” It smacked of a quid pro quo a la Ukraine.
Trump concluded his tweet with a childish taunt at Chris Cuomo, the governor’s brother. Not surprisingly, Trump and Governor Cuomo did not come to any compromises in that meeting.
The editorial also warned the Green Light law “gives the amber to voter fraud.”
An Oct. 18, 2016 “Washington Week” article reported 44 voter fraud cases out of one billion votes had occurred since 2000 nationwide; that rate is 0.0000044 percent.
A side note: U.S. employers have rarely been punished for illegally hiring undocumented workers and supposedly endangering public safety by doing so.
Reasonable arguments for and against New York’s Green Light law with good evidence can be made, but Trump, Homeland Security, and this paper have yet to make them.
ALBANY – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, today joined other members of the Senate Republican Conference in bringing an amendment to the floor to repeal of the so-called “Green Light” Law, his office announced a few minutes ago.
With all members of the Democratic majority voting against repeal, the measure failed.
“I voted against the ‘Green Light Law’ last year because the thought of giving a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law was inconceivable,” Seward said in a statement after the vote.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the 19 terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or crashed in Schwenksville, Pa., had 30 driver’s licenses among them that allowed them to gain access to and hijack the four jets.
Nineteen licenses were from Florida, eight from Virginia, one each from Arizona and Maryland, plus two from California that were issued to two “watchlisted” participants.
None were from our state’s DMV, but if such a national catastrophe were to occur again, it could be different.
Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli referenced that last Thursday, Feb. 10, in answering reporters’ questions on his department’s decision to exclude New Yorkers from four “Trusted Traveler” programs after the passage of the state’s “Green Light” Law, which prohibits state law enforcement agencies from sharing routine DMV data with immigration agencies.
The programs give pre-approved travelers and trucking companies no-wait entry in to the U.S. The decision means 80,000
New Yorkers who have applied for the status won’t be approved, and 175,000 already approved will lose their status as their five-year passes expire.
“It was embarrassing to us in Virginia, that (many) of the 9/11 terrorists used Virginia driver’s licenses to help accomplish their evil mission, and we set about to fix that, and we did fix that,” said Cuccinelli.
New York is “one of the other targets of 9/11 that is walking backwards, quite intentionally, … to bar the sharing of law-enforce-
ment-relevant information like vehicle registration, matching driver’s licenses to identifications, and critically, criminal records that are kept up to date and DMV databases.”
As stated here before, the “Green Light” legislation, granting a legal document to people who are in the U.S. illegally, is illogical on its face, evident to the 62 percent of New Yorkers who opposed it in a Siena Poll.
Plus, the Democratic majority folded it into the vote on the state budget, avoiding public hearings and on-the-floor discussion where the benefits and deficits would have become clear.
The law forced county clerks who run DMV offices, like Otsego’s Kathy Sinnot Gardner, to disobey either state law or federal law, contrary to their oath of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States AND the Constitution of the State of New York.” (Emphasis added.)
Since DMV applications are automatically forwarded to the state Board of Elections, where they are processed routinely, the “Green Light” at least gives an amber to voter fraud.
The law in place, the DMV and state Division of Criminal Justice Service then ordered local police to sign a “pledge” not to share any related information with federal agencies; obdurate police would be denied access to DMV records, essential to ensure someone stopped for speeding isn’t wanted for shooting a cop downstate.
County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., called that “blackmail,” reported Joe Mahoney, Albany correspondent for Plattsburgh’s, Niagara Falls’ and other Upstate papers, who broke the story statewide. “I signed the agreement with displeasure because it would really affect our officers here if we were not to have access to this data,” Devlin told Mahoney.
All this just isn’t right.
Supporters of the “Green Light” Law argue that because of the vast number of illegal immigrants in New York State – in 2014 there were 4.4 million in New York State, an estimated 22 percent of the population – this is a necessary safety measure, ensuring they pass the driver’s test and have insurance.
Still, to anyone who watched the World Trade Center towers collapse, visited the chilling 911 Memorial & Museum in New York City’s financial district, or listened to Cuccinelli the other afternoon, the justification rings hollow. Should every law be repealed if it’s flouted? Should any?
The answer to illegal immigration is much larger than the “Green Light” Law, requiring well-regulated borders and likely a humane path to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding immigrants. (A massive expulsion would be a human rights disaster.) But that’s a separate discussion.
Democrats have characterized Homeland Security’s decision as a reprisal by the Trump Administration: In his State of the Nation speech the night before it came down, the president singled out California and New York State as states where “sanctuary” communities are putting the law-abiding general public at risk.
But with Monday the 10th’s announcement of action against the state of New Jersey and the county that includes Seattle, Wash., it appears to be part of a larger push-back against the whole concept of “sanctuaries” – one that’s long overdue.
In New York State, according to the Center for Immigrant Studies, the cities of New York City and Ithaca, and five counties, are sanctuaries. However, that doesn’t include Cooperstown, where a Village Board resolution from 2017 declares village police won’t cooperate with ICE investigations that may occur locally; now, it may make sense for the trustees to withdraw that ill-considered resolution.
Whether reprisal or prudent governance, the right course is clear: The “Green Light” Law should be repealed on the merits. That the state’s economy will now suffer and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers face travel delays are an added impetus for the state Legislature to do the right thing.
Instead of rethinking where we are and returning to a more sensible course, state Attorney General Letitia James, also on Monday, filed suit accusing the Trump Administration of using “our nation’s security as a political weapon.” Rather, is New York State simply risking our nation’s security to ride an ideological hobby horse?
As for the governor, he said “more than a dozen states – including red states – (have) similar laws.” He knows better. While other states grant licenses to undocumented immigrants, they didn’t include the most objectionable provision: barring cooperation with federal agencies. Washington State is considering that clause, but now may change its mind.
Contrary, it seems, to county clerks and sheriffs, the governor and attorney general are entitled to their own opinions. Neither is up for reelection in November, but the state Legislature is: 62 percent of voters should hold their representatives accountable on this issue. Turn off the “Green Light.”
WASHINGTON – New York residents will be cut off from “trusted traveler” programs that enable people to quickly return from outside the country because of the state’s new “Green Light” law that prevents immigration officials from accessing motor-vehicle records, ABC News and other outlets are reporting today.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers whose applications for the programs are pending or will have to renew their enrollment by the end of the year will have to undergo customs and passport checks as they enter the country as a result of the action, said Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
ALBANY — A few minutes ago, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced U.S. District Gary L. Sharpe today granted her office’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola that sought to block the state’s “Green Light” Law from taking effect.
She said the law is “legal and enforceable” and efforts by county clerks to stop it “meritless.”
The law, which is scheduled to go into effect Monday, “will help make our roads safer, our economy stronger, and will allow immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state.”
In November, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford similarly dismissed a suit brought forth by Erie County Clerk Michael (Mickey) Kearns to block implementation of the law.
COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner has joined 26 other county clerks who today urged Governor Cuomo and DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder to delay implementing the state’s Green Light Law until next Oct. 1 “for the safety and security of all New Yorkers.”
The new law, which allows people in the U.S. illegally to obtain New York State driver’s licenses, is due to go into effect Monday.
In a statement, the county clerks issued a statement declaring the state DMC “failed to provide regulations that would ensure the integrity of the identification process” of applicants seeking driver’s licenses.
The protesting clerks including all officers of the state Association of County Clerks.
ALBANY — New York Attorney General Letitia James today hailed the U.S. District Court affirmation of the “Green Light” law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
The decision by Judge Elizabeth Wolford dismissed a lawsuit brought by Erie County Clerk Michael (Mickey) Kearns, and supported by 34 county clerks across the state, including Otsego County’s Kathy Sinnott Gardner.
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.
State law governs the issuance of driver’s licenses. Since 1993, 13 states and D.C. have issued licenses to residents – i.e. some of them could be illegal aliens.
This does not give the cardholder the right to vote. In fact, it says that right on the card.
What it does is bring them into compliance concerning requirements for car insurance, car registration, and traffic tickets, all the regulations that are pertinent to what they’re doing – driving a car.
In other states, they are called “privilege cards” and are not valid IDs for voting.
Voter registration laws are likewise handled by the states, and so-called “motor voter” laws effectively register anyone with a license – that is a valid ID for voting – to vote. If their license is not a valid ID for voting, they don’t get registered.
Not that complicated to sort out any misunderstandings.
ALBANY – Efforts by New York’s county clerks to clarify their responsibilities to the U.S. Constitution in regards to the “Green Light” bill are “shortsighted and just plain wrong,” Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie declared in a statement released today.
He singled out Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, who went to federal court Monday evening seeking an injunction against the bill, which would require county clerks like Otsego’s Kathy Sinnott Gardner who run state DMV offices to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented residents/illegal aliens.
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.
COOPERSTOWN – Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner said yesterday she has joined 30 county clerks in sending a letter to President Trump, asking him to direct the U.S. Justice Department to go to court to block the state’s new “Green Light Law.”
In an interview, Saratoga County Clerk Chris Hayner said, as of yesterday, that number had risen to 35. He said all were Republicans, except Oneida County Clerk Sandra DePerno, a Utica Democrat.
COOPERSTOWN – Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner, with the concurrence of 30 county clerks across the state, has asked President Trump to ask the Justice Department to go to federal court to determine if New York State’s “Green Light” Law, which goes into effect Dec. 14, is constitutional.
The “Green Light” Law, passed by the Democratic controlled state Legislature, requires county clerks to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The Otsego County Board of Representatives passed a resolution this month objecting to the bill, and Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner has expressed concern the automatic license-application program will automatically register undocumented residents as voters.