No sooner had New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation giving illegal immigrants access to state driver’s licenses, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo announced her intent to sue the state over the new law.
“Let me be clear: Because this policy puts state law at odds with federal law, endangers public safety and rewards those who have not followed the law in the first place, I will not allow driver’s licenses to be issued to illegal immigrants without a fight,” said Dinolfo in a June 19 statement.
Dinolfo was also a vocal opponent to then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s 2007 push to give illegal aliens licenses and even sued Spitzer before he dropped the issue. The Republican county executive must first get the Monroe County Legislature to pass a bill permitting her to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.
“There certainly is a discrepancy between state and federal law on immigration, and certainly unequal protection under the law for those who are here with without legal status and who have entered the country illegally, and those who are with full status as full American citizens,” she told a local ABC News affiliate.
The passage of the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act also elicited a defiant reaction from several Empire State county clerks who said they’d refuse to distribute the licenses.
Hours after the bill became law, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns sent a letter to the county’s attorney, Michael Siragusa, seeking representation in case he is sued for refusing to hand out licenses, according to the Buffalo News.
“I anticipate being sued in either event,” Kearns wrote, adding that he also would file a declaratory action “challenging the law as applied to the Erie County Clerk.”
After Cuomo signed the bill on Monday, the New York Post reported that clerks in Erie, Rensselaer, Niagara and Allegany counties said they would refuse to issue the licenses.
The law takes effect in December, despite lingering concerns about opening the door to voter fraud given a driver’s license is all that is needed to register to vote in New York State.
Even supporters recognized the potential for abuse by illegal aliens.
“Theoretically, they could have the ability to vote,” acknowledged the bill’s Democratic sponsor, state Rep. Luis Sepúlveda on Monday before the final vote.
While immigrant rights activists were able to convince enough legislators to support it, public opposition remained steady in the final months of the debate.
A June Siena College poll found a majority (53 to 41 percent) of New Yorkers opposed giving illegal aliens drivers’ licenses, which was just one point lower than an April survey.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also has some concerns but typically not those shared by voters.
In a June 17 letter to state Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, Cuomo’s counsel, David Alphonso, requested a legal opinion on whether the bill “will have the effect of inadvertently providing federal officials with access to State data relating to the same set of undocumented individuals.”
He added in a statement that he worried that federal officials “seeking to use their information for deportation.”
Cuomo is fretting the new law could lead to enforcement of immigration law, but has no qualms about it leading to violations of federal law. Typical.