COOPERSTOWN – Pursuant to a order from Governor Cuomo, Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner this morning announced her Department of Motor Vehicles Offices here and in Oneonta and the clerk’s office in general will be closed until at least April 19.
Cuomo also directed the following:
The extension of validity of any driver’s license, non-driver Identification or registration expiring on or after March 1, 2020
The extension of validity of any temporary registration document issued by an in-state auto dealer
The cancellation of any in-person DMV appointment at any office until further notice
Deadline dates in court proceedings (i.e. statutes of limitations, motions, etc.) are hereby delayed
COOPERSTOWN – The state’s “Green Light” Law that went into effect over the weekend is all about registering potential Democratic voters, Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner said in an interview.
“They are making a mockery of our voting system,” said Sinnott Gardner Tuesday, Dec. 17, as she was organizing her staff to administer a law she disagrees with.
As of press time, only one undocumented resident had shown up locally – Monday, at the Oneonta office – and was told the office was not yet prepared to issue licenses under the new law.
Before the “Green Light” was turned on, a U.S. citizen applying for a driver’s license would present documentation that would be scanned and sent to state Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Albany, where it would be part of that driver’s file. The processing clerk would also make a notation on the application.
Under the new law, Sinnott Gardner’s clerks must accept a valid foreign passport or driver’s license on faith. “If we can’t read their birth certificate, they can translate it themselves and tell us what it is,” said DMV Clerk Lynn Blessin. The document may not be scanned as has been standard practice to date, nor is any notation on the application permitted.
When an applicant then approaches the pay window, a question on a screen asks, “Are you a citizen of the U.S.?” According to guidelines from the state DMV, “If a customer answers ‘yes,’ our computer system is required by law to transmit the application to the applicable board of elections for processing.”
It continues, “Under the Green Light Law, DMV staff are expressly precluded from asking a standard license applicant about their citizenship or lawful presence … Importantly, staff … may not use their perceptions of the customer, or anything else, as the basis to interfere with the customer’s voter application.”
Sinnott Gardner, who has been among a core of 26 county clerks opposing the new legislation, has developed a system that will allow her eight-person DMV staff to process the undocumented residents, also called illegal immigrants.
Following the Niagara County clerk and others, three of the eight will be trained to process “Green Light” applications, which will be scheduled 9:30-11:30 a.m. only Wednesdays and Thursdays, and only in main local DMV office in Cooperstown. The applications will be accepted, beginning Thursday, Jan. 2.
“We are being forced to do this by Governor Cuomo,” said Sinnott Gardner. “We have to follow the law.”
In recent months, several county clerks went to court to object to the law, which was passed last summer by the newly Democratic-dominated state Legislature. But the final one pending, by Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, was dismissed Friday, Dec. 13. Another, filed by Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, also lost in U.S. District Court, but he is appealing, Sinnott Gardner said.
“The Green Light law is legal and enforceable,” Attorney General Letitia James, whose office defended the measure, said after the Merola decision, “and two separate federal courts have now already dismissed the meritless claims of two county clerks.
“Beginning Monday, the law 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,” she said. “We expect all public officials to comply with the law, and, as the state’s attorney and chief law enforcement officer, I will continue to vigorously defend it.”
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.
Editor’s Note: Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner developed this position paper on the state’s new “Green Light” law before asking President Trump to intervene and ensure it doesn’t require New York State’s county clerks to violate their oath of office.
By CRAIG HAYNER • Saratoga County Clerk
The ability of states to regulate who drives on their roadways dates back to the Model T with the 1916 Supreme Court decision regarding Frank J. Kane v the State of New Jersey, which found the state within its right to issue registration fees.
States were further supported in regulating who drives in 1999 when the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in the case of Donald S. Miller v the California Department of Motor Vehicles, ruled that there is no “fundamental right to drive.” And again on June 7, 2007, when New York’s highest court upheld the state DMV’s right to require Social Security numbers (SSN) from driver-license applicants or a letter of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration, in the case Cubas v Martinez.
By statute, the NYS DMV has required driver-license applicants to supply their Social Security numbers since 1995. DMV also accepts a letter of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration (SSA) along with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documentation from anyone ineligible for a SSN.
As stated in the Cubas v Martinez decision, the policy was not the result of a post-September 11 panic over immigration; the internal document adopting the policy is dated Sept. 6, 2001. This anti-fraud policy was validated in 2002 with the DMV’s Social Security verification program uncovering massive amounts of fraud, according to testimony by then-DMV Commissioner Martinez to the NYS Assembly Transportation Committee on Aug. 19, 2004.
The current legislation, now signed into law (A3675B & S1747B), known as the “Green Light Bill,” disregards history and case law, attempting to rewrite the law in the interest of a few at the expense of many:
Provides the Option to Refuse to Provide a Social Security Number: The law provides the option for Standard License applicants to refuse to provide a Social Security Number (SSN), allowing criminals to exploit the system. This reverses the State DMV’s law enforcement arm’s nearly two decades of work in uncovering and preventing fraud discovered using Social Security Verification.
Requires a Visually Identical Design: The law requires that licenses issued to those here illegally be “visually identical” to a federal-purpose license. This appears to be a deliberate attempt to deceive and a violation of the federal REAL ID Act, which requires non-compliant cards to have a unique design or color indicator. While the bill states the Commissioner may adopt additional regulations to comply with federal law, the use of “may”, rather than “shall”, provides the commissioner the option of non-compliance with federal law.
Changes Automatic Registration to Selective Service System to Opt-In: The law changes the provision that directs the DMV to provide information to the Selective Service System (SSS) of young men who are required to be registered with Selective Service from an automatic registration to an optional registration. According to federal law, with very few exceptions, all males between ages 18 and 25 must register with the SSS. This includes U.S. born and naturalized citizens, parolees, undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, refugees, and all males with visas expired more than 30 days. These changes not only create unnecessary red tape for DMV employees, but also make it easier for people to thwart their lawful duty to register with Selective Service.
Requires Notification to Anyone whose Records are Sought – The law requires the DMV Commissioner to notify within in three days any person whose records are sought from “any agency that primarily enforces immigration law,” informing the individual about the request and identifying the agency requesting the records. The bill also requires such agency or representative to obtain a warrant or court order to access any DMV records. This is a deliberate effort to impede federal immigration investigations and allow those under investigation to obstruct justice.
Provides the Option of Implementation before it becomes Law: The law back dates to Jan. 1, 2019, the proofs of identity required to be accepted to include a variety of foreign documents. It also provides for the state to amend or repeal any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of this act before it actually becomes law. These provisions provide the unprecedented ability for the State to implement policy before it becomes law and offers no time for training for DMV clerks who will be forced to accept documentation they cannot translate or authenticate. Further, in the midst of REAL ID implementation, which is creating a great influx of customers, longer transaction times, and frustrated customers in DMV offices throughout the state, this bill would haphazardly thrust even more responsibilities and a greater customer demand on our overworked DMV clerks without providing them the respect or resources to ensure they properly implement the law.
Provides an Opportunity for Voter Fraud: Newly installed Customer Facing Devices in all NYS and County DMV offices prompt customers to register to vote during any type of license or ID transaction, regardless of the customer’s citizenship status or age. The customer must answer yes or no before their transaction can be completed. The State DMV has been aware of this computer issue, but to date has yet to address it, passing the issue along to the Board of Elections to determine eligibility after they receive a list from the DMV of anyone who pressed yes.
Compromises the Oath of Office: The new state law to provide driver licenses to those in this country illegally circumvents federal law, unjustly putting County Clerks and DMV employees in the compromising position of violating their oath of office, which is to support and defend the Constitutions of the United States and the State of New York.
Forces DMV employees and County Clerks to be Immigration Authorities: The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the unconditional and absolute power to regulate immigration. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1876 that immigration regulation was an exclusive federal responsibility. This law shifts that authority to the State of NYS DMV and forces DMV employees to become experts on identifying a multitude of foreign documents from around the world, placing the sole responsibility on DMV clerks to ensure people are who they claim to be and to ferret out fraudulent documents. DMV employees would have to do this in addition to the hundreds of motor vehicle transactions the offices process daily.
COOPERSTOWN – Another option for county clerks to challenge the state’s “Green Light” law opened up this week, as Erie County Clerk Michael “Mickey” Kearns went to federal court to block enforcement until its constitutionality can be determined.
The “Green Light” law, due to go into effect Dec. 14, would require county clerks to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented residents/illegal aliens, and to rebuff any efforts by ICE (U.S. Immigrations & Customs Enforcement) to access their records.
Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner and many of her colleagues learned of the lawsuit in Syracuse Monday, July 8, at a state Association of County Clerks’ strategy session on how to go forward.
COOPERSTOWN – The Erie County clerk, Michael “Mickey” Kearns, is expected to file suit today to block the state’s “Green Light” law, according to attendees at the state Association of County Clerks strategy session yesterday in Syracuse.
Otsego County’s Kathy Sinnott Gardner and Saratoga County’s Craig Hayner said they learned of Kearns’ intent at the meeting, called by the association’s president, Judy Hunter of Steuben County.
Sinnott Gardner said she was unsure whether Otsego County would play any role in the suit, either as a “friend of the court” or more fully.
COOPERSTOWN – With only one Democrat supporting the 8-3-3 vote, the Otsego County Board of Representatives today sent a resolution to the state Assembly opposing the so-called “Green Light Bill” allowing illegal immigrants to obtained drivers’ licenses.
Voting aye were Republicans Ed Frazier of Unadilla, Kathy Clark of Otego, Peter Oberacker of Schenevus, Dan Wilber of Burlington, Keith McCarty of East Springfield and board Chair David Bliss of Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, as well as Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision. Andrew Stammel, Town of Oneonta, was the sole Democrat joining them.
Voting nay were Democrats Gary Koutnik, Danny Lapin and Adrienne Martini, all of Oneonta. Abstaining were Democrats Michelle Farwell of Morris, Andrew Marietta of Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, and Liz Shannon of Oneonta
Dave Bliss, Republican chair of the Otsego County Board and a Rotarian, pours coffee for state Sen. – and candidate – Jim Seward, R-Milford, a few minutes ago at the traditional Cooperstown Rotary Club Election Day pancake breakfast at the Vets’ Club. With the senator are, from his left, daughter-in-law of two months Kelly Ann, daughter Lauren, wife Cindy and son Ryan. Seward is being challenged today by Democrat Joyce St. George, Margaretville area. Inset, Democratic kingmaker Richard Sternberg joined the Republican table that includes, at left, county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr. and County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner; at right is Republican County Chair Vince Casale, who is also a top adviser to Republican Marc Molinaro’s campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Devlin is being challenged by Republican Bob Fernandez, a retired state trooper who appears on the Democrat line. Sinnott Gardner is unopposed. “I like these people,” said Sternberg. The polls are open across Otsego County until 9 p.m. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)