New York Governor Signs Law Giving Drivers’ Licenses to Illegal Aliens
By Colton R. Overcash | June 27, 2019
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 3675, the “Green Light Bill,” on June 17, making New York the 13th state to allow illegal aliens to apply for drivers’ licenses.
The Green Light Bill passed the State Senate in a narrow vote (33-29) hours before the governor took action. Seven Democrats joined all twenty-two Republicans to oppose it. The Democrat “no” votes were all freshmen senators in competitive largely suburban districts outside of New York City: Six were from Long Island and one was from Orange County in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
The Senate’s version of the Green Light Bill (S.1747) had been assigned to the Transportation Committee for months, where it was expected to stall and “die” after state and local officials strongly denounced the measure for weeks.
However, the bill was abruptly removed from committee by Senate President Pro Tem Andrea Stewart-Collins (D-White Plains) and replaced with AB 3675 under a rule known as “discharge.” It was then placed on the calendar for a chamber vote on the same day with almost no notice. The senate leader justified the move by saying it was “necessary” for the legislature to “restore the right[s]” of illegal aliens to obtain a driver’s license and AB 3675 was the “right step forward for New York” to achieve that goal, according to a press statement.
The unexpected move drew sharp criticism from Senate Republicans who debated the bill for nearly four hours, calling it a “lawless” proposal that “watered down citizenship” and created a double standard for illegal aliens. “We are treating the people who have broken our law, who are criminals [like law-abiding citizens]. This legislation will lead to more illegal immigration,” Senator Thomas O’Mara (R-Chemung) said before voting against the proposal.
Sen. Fred Akshar (R-Endwell) concurred and said the Green Light Bill is “a slap in the face for law-abiding New Yorkers” who play by the rules and obey the law.
The new law will go into effect after 180 days have passed (around December 14). Once it takes effect, illegal aliens will be allowed to submit an application for a non-commercial driver’s license without providing a Social Security Number. Instead, an applicant will be allowed to sign an affidavit affirming that he or she does not have a Social Security Number, and provide foreign identity documents, such as passports or drivers’ licenses, even if they’ve been expired for up to two years. Law enforcement officials, including federal immigration enforcement officers, will also be restricted from accessing a driver’s information through the state Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)’s database without providing a signed judicial warrant first.
Several local officials have already threatened to disobey the law or sue the state before it goes into effect, including in Alleghany, Erie, Monroe, Niagara, and Rensselaer counties. Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns (R) said he would not issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and would re-direct applicants to the state-run bureau in Syracuse.
Additionally, Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola (R) and County Executive Steven McLaughlin (R) announced on June 19 that they are prepared to file a lawsuit in federal court and are encouraging other municipalities to become a party to the lawsuit. Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo (R) also suggested that the Monroe County Legislature will take similar action in the coming weeks to preserve public safety.
“Certainly there’s a huge public safety issue as well on our law enforcement not being able to access records if there’s a traffic stop of someone who is here without legal presence, that’s an enormous safety concern”, Dinolfo said. “It needs to be addressed.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James (D) has publicly stated that she believes the law is “constitutional” and would defend it “vigorously” if it is challenged in court.