By Michael P. Kearns
A New York state senator claims that opposition to the Green Light Bill, legislation providing a driver’s license to undocumented immigrants, suffers from “an education problem.” As a former state assemblyman, I agree. The legislators supporting this bill failed to educate the public on its adverse impacts.
Legislators supporting the bill primarily argue that it will enable undocumented workers to travel to their places of employment. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) made it a federal crime to employ undocumented workers. The Supreme Court has ruled a state cannot adopt laws regarding immigration unless the state action “mirrors federal objectives and furthers a legitimate state goal.” This bill encourages undocumented employment, which is in violation of federal law.
Legislators remain silent on the issue of voter registration. The “Motor Voter” law requires the DMV to provide voter registration upon application for a license. Voter registration requires answering a question of citizenship, but the current bill strictly forbids this practice. Other states issuing these licenses, including California, specifically note on the document that it does not establish eligibility for voter registration. New York’s bill doesn’t address this important issue.
When a person breaks the law by failing to pay child support or obey traffic laws their license can be suspended or revoked. Undocumented immigrants broke the law upon entering the United States, yet this bill provides them access to a driver’s license. Immigration officials call this a “gateway document.”
Erie County has an international border. It has been a target for terrorist cells and transnational criminal threats. This law forbids law enforcement from reviewing the records of an undocumented immigrant during a routine traffic stop.
The state DMV accumulates $65 million per year by sharing licensed drivers’ data with third parties. Under this bill, undocumented immigrants’ information will be protected and not shared; however, the legislature has ignored legislation to protect New York State residents from having their information accessed by third parties.
The New York State Court of Appeals recognized various aspects of fraud by those who were able to obtain driver’s licenses, including bank fraud and selling fake identifications to stage accidents to commit insurance fraud. Fraud is a very real consequence. To guard against fraud, DMV employees will require training to identify documents from 195 countries around the world. Even trained experts experience difficulty deciphering fraudulent documents and it’s unfair to expect auto bureau employees to do so.
Significant public opinion is against this policy. A recent Siena Poll shows a majority of New Yorkers — 61-34 percent — oppose the idea of giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. A more prudent course with respect to the Green Light Bill is to give it a red light and put on the brakes.
Michael P. Kearns is the Erie County Clerk.