By Howard M. Riell
A bill has been introduced in Albany that would protect Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employees from legal retribution, should they refuse licenses to undocumented immigrants.
“The controversial “Green Light Law,” passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 17, has sparked outrage from county clerks across the state — some of whom have filed legal challenges in federal court arguing that the law conflicts with federal policy,” reported the New York Post.
The new bill, which is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk) would allow a DMV staffer to obtain a lawyer in order to defend him if and when New York State takes civil action against them for refusing to administer the licenses. It would also safeguard the employee from being fired if they acted in good faith complying with federal law.
“Senator Sepulveda, Assemblyman Crespo advanced legislation that is really benevolent and really helpful to illegal immigrants; doesn’t help the taxpayers, doesn’t help law-abiding citizens,” Flanagan said, mentioning the sponsors by name, at a press conference on Long Island. “It flouts federal law, it ignores federal law, it violates federal law, and yet state employees … are being forced to be put in a position where if they do the right thing and enforces federal immigration law, they face the chance of losing their jobs.”
He added, “The governor has openly said he would remove county clerks that do not adhere to the principle of the law and the law. The logical extension of that is any state employee who now presently does not have the protection could end up losing their job. Why?”
Back in June, the Senate passed the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act (Green Light NY), sponsored by Senator Luis Sepúlveda, which will restore the right to obtain a license, regardless of immigration status, that existed prior to 2001.
The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act (Green Light NY), S.1747B, will allow non-commercial driver license or learner’s permit applicants to be able to submit additional proofs of identity to be eligible for a non-Federal license. It also waives the social security number requirement if the applicant signs an affidavit that they have not been issued a social security number and provides the DMV with discretion to approve additional proofs of identity and age. Further, this legislation will protect the data of the applicants from unwarranted release.
The legislation, which goes into effect in December, provides additional government revenue, supports New York businesses and increases road safety. Statewide, the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that this legislation will result in $83.9 million in government revenues over the first three years and $6.4 million in recurring revenue thereafter. In a statement of support, the Business Council of New York State said that this legislation is “an opportunity to increase these New Yorkers’ ability to support local employers and businesses.” In Connecticut, where a similar policy was implemented four years ago, there have been almost 4,000 fewer unlicensed driving convictions and hit-and-run crashes have dropped 9% between 2016 and 2018.