In a unanimous vote held on Tuesday, the Niagara County Legislature approved a resolution giving a green light for the county to legally challenge New York’s controversial law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
“I will recommend the Niagara County Legislature immediately commence litigation challenging the constitutionality of the Green Light law,” said Niagara County’s attorney, Claude Joerg, who said the county would file suit in state court.
The so-called “Green Light” bill gained widespread support among liberal Democratic lawmakers, but moderates in the party shared Republican concerns that driver’s license applicants can register to vote without any oversight as part of the process.
The legislature’s chairman, Keith McNall, said the law could result in “voter participation diluted by votes cast by non-citizens,” which is why he was seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional.
His concerns are not unfounded. Ralph Mohr, the Republican elections commissioner for Erie County, says it already is too easy to register to vote when filling out license applications. In fact, his office has received 2,500 duplicate registrations so far this year from people who mistakenly registered when filling out registration forms with the DMV.
So, if legal voters could register twice, what safeguards are there to prevent an estimated 265,000 illegal aliens from registering once?
Niagara is the third county, but likely not the last, to sue to stop the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act from taking effect in December. Last month, Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns announced plans to sue Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and other state officials, while Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola said he would filed suit in U.S. District Court. Montgomery County is considering joining that suit, while New York State Senator Chris Jacobs, a Republican, has introduced a bill to revoke the law.
However, it is not only county clerks and Republican officials that continue to disapprove of extending the privilege of a driver’s license to those illegally residing in the country.
A poll released this week by Siena College Research Institute found a majority (53 percent) of New York voters still oppose the law and that is even higher (55 percent) among Independent and Republican (85 percent) voters.
“Only Democrats support allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a New York driver’s license; it is opposed by independents and overwhelmingly opposed by Republicans,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
But public sentiment is irrelevant to the Democrat-controlled legislature, which happily provided a path forward for immigrant rights activists to drive a longstanding legislative priority to Cuomo’s desk.
In doing so, activists were able to secure the inclusion of provisions preventing federal officials from accessing the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database and to loosen identification requirements.
Under the new law, those seeking to get a license will not be required to produce multiple forms of identification, including a valid Social Security number, to qualify for a license. In fact, all they would need is a birth certificate or passport from any one of 195 foreign countries.
The will of the citizens of New York have been voiced time and time again. Let’s hope the courts, unlike the politicians and activists, listen.