Citing that the implementation process is moving too rapidly and county clerks were not involved enough in crafting the legislation, Putnam County lawmakers are voicing outrage and opposition to a new state law that would give immigrants in the country illegally the ability to obtain driver’s licenses.
The legislature’s rules committee passed a resolution last week calling for the Green Light Bill to be repealed. The Green Light Bill, which was passed by the state Legislature earlier this year, gives undocumented immigrants the ability to get a license at the local Department of Motor Vehicles, which is run by the county clerk’s office. Supporters of the bill said those immigrants that get licenses still need to pass a safety and written road tests and a pay a fee to the state. The license could not be used to vote, board a plane or gain citizenship, supporters said.
But county Clerk Michael Bartolotti said the law puts clerks’ offices in a “tough spot” because there are now state laws and federal laws that clash with each other. The clerk’s office has reached out to the federal government for guidance and is working with the state’s county clerks association to prepare for it once it goes into effect later this year. The clerk’s office has also been conferring with the county attorney’s office.
Some of the paperwork that immigrants could give the DMV might be hard to determine whether or not the documents are proper, Bartolotti said. There is chance that these identifications issued could lead to undocumented immigrants voting, he added.
“The way the statue was drafted gives us some grave concerns,” Bartolotti said. “This was not done right from stem to stern.”
The resolution the rules committee passed laid out various reasons why the law should be repealed. It stated the Green Light Bill would create security risks and DMV officials lack the training or tools to verify foreign passports and foreign government identification to ensure they are authentic.
The county legislature’s resolution also argues that the state law is now at odds with federal guidelines and that driving is a privilege that should not be given to those in the country illegally.
Legislator Carl Albano said he could see the benefit of giving illegal immigrants a license because many are on the road without one already, but the state law is not a reasonable model. Legislator and rules committee chairman Neal Sullivan said the new law concerned him because foreign documents are hard to verify.
“It would be nice if we had something in place that made sense, but this isn’t it,” Albano said.
Regulations still have not been passed downfromthestateDMV,resultinginmuch of the frustration.
Sullivan said later during the meeting at some point giving undocumented immigrants licenses could be the “right thing to do,” but the state has not done its due diligence with this measure.
“Classic New York fashion, it’s the cart before the horse,” Sullivan added. “Classic New York State.”
Vanessa Agudelo of The New York Immigration Coalition Hudson Valley Chapter said a lot concerns voiced by county lawmakers have actually been addressed and there are misconceptions about the law put forth by its critics. The Immigration Coalition and the ACLU both helped draft the legislation and reached out to a wide spectrum of stakeholders including business groups and law enforcement.
Agudelo said there are errors in the resolution that the committee passed to the full meeting next month though legislative counsel Robert Firriolo rebuffed that assertion.
The funding from the state would be adequate to train local DMVs including Putnam, Agudelo argued. The law also doesn’t threaten public safety and addresses concerns that law enforcement had, she added.
“The tension is being decreased between our immigrant community members that quite frankly feel that they have to hide in the shadows, they might not feel so inclined to hide,” Agudelo said. “This is a benefit for the whole community.”
Similar laws have been passed in 13 others states in the country and “the sky hasn’t fallen,” Agudelo said.
Cold Spring resident Connor Brennan, who supports the Green Light Bill, said undocumented immigrants are the most vulnerable people in the state and county lawmakers need to protect them. The new state law allows them to live more dignified lives, he said.
“I hope you can broaden your perspective and understand the hardships that undocumented immigrants go through and choose to not (encourage the state to) repeal this law because it’s going to uplift so many people in our community,” Brennan said.