Second County Clerk Sues New York over Illegal-Alien Drivers’ Licenses
By David Jaroslav | August 2019
Less than six weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law New York’s so-called “Green Light Bill,” Assembly Bill (AB) 3675, which allows illegal aliens to apply for drivers’ licenses, a second county clerk has stepped forward to sue the state in an attempt to prevent the law from taking effect. On July 24, Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola (R) followed Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns (D) lead and filed suit. Recent polls show a clear majority of New Yorkers are against giving drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens.
Rensselaer County Clerk Merola called the Green Light Law a “travesty,” saying “[t]he Governor and State legislature are not listening to the people; perhaps they may listen to the courts.” “New York residents have stated loudly and clearly that they are opposed to driver’s license for illegal aliens and all we get from the NYC liberals are lectures and banalities about how good this law will be.” He later added that “[e]very part of the [Green Light] law is off the mark … Everything is against the federal regulations.”
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin (R) described the lawsuit as “a necessary response to Albany’s out of control contempt for any semblance of governance. Albany is back to its old tricks of pushing legislation through in the eleventh hour to appease a vocal minority without considering the impact on county government operations and our taxpayers.”
County Executive McLaughlin highlighted the security risks from the new law, noting it “says that you don't need a Social Security number to get a license … It is absolutely the exact opposite of what the 911 commission said to do.” But unlike Albany, he said, “Rensselaer County is committed to upholding the well-reasoned Federal immigration laws and protecting our residents.”
Several more clerks and other local officials appear poised to take legal action as well. Before the bill passed, the Association of County Clerks took a formal position opposing it. In addition to Erie and Rensselaer, the clerks in Allegany, Chautauqua and Niagara counties have all said they will refuse to issue drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, while Monroe County Executive Cheryl DiNolfo (R) has also said she plans to sue.
In response, New York Attorney General Leticia James (D) says the Green Light Law “is well crafted and [her office] has concluded that it is constitutional[.]” But despite signing it, Gov. Cuomo has been noticeably less supportive of the law, describing it as “very questionable.”
Erie County Clerk Kearns filed his suit in Buffalo while Rensselaer County Clerk Merola’s is in Albany. It is possible their suits and any others filed could be consolidated together for a hearing before the same court. Appeals from either court would be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which sits in New York City, and from there to the Supreme Court of the United States.