Local officials oppose New York law allowing licenses for undocumented immigrants

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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Clinton County Clerk John Zurlo said there’s at least 12 county clerks across New York who plan to turn away undocumented immigrants attempting to get a driver’s license.

The “Green Light NY” law was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday, and will allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. It passed the New York Senate in a 33 to 29 vote.

“They’re going to their county attorneys and asking for their support, and they’re going to bring action,” Zurlo said.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kerns harshly criticized the law on Twitter, adding that his county won’t follow it.

Zurlo said he supports Kerns and other clerks’ efforts, but his office won’t be joining their challenge.

“We’re going to follow through and do what we can,” Zurlo said. “If people have proper credentials, they will get driver’s licenses.”

Zurlo, however, wasn’t sure if his staff at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Plattsburgh will be able to handle the changes.

“They’re going to have to learn how to accept documentation from other countries, our staff is not equipped to do that at this point,” Zurlo said. “So, whether there’s going to be any learning procedure that the D.M.V. is going to set up for us in Albany remains to be seen.”

According to the Washington Post, roughly $33 million has been earmarked by New York lawmakers to support clerks’ offices during the implementation period, which will begin in six months.

In a statement, State Senator Luis Sepulveda (D) said the bill’s passage guarantees “safer roads, stronger economies, increased revenue, and will keep families together.” Sen. Sepulveda sponsored the legislation.

Clinton County Sheriff David Favro felt “Green Light NY” will have the opposite effect, creating a public safety concern.

“We’re giving, basically, an identification to an unknown individual without anything to verify who they may be,” Sheriff Favro said. “Immediately, a lot of people will think you’re referring to aliens, it doesn’t necessarily have to be because the bill specifically says an individual, so it could be somebody from another part of the U.S. who may be a legal citizen that could be involved in crime and want to be seeking a new I.D., a new life somewhere else, and in one sense, we’re giving that to them.”

Twelve states currently allow undocumented immigrants to drive, including Vermont.

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