The state and Erie County attorneys made oral arguments in federal court Wednesday in Buffalo regarding a challenge to New York’s new Green Light Law.
The law, passed by the state Legislature earlier this year, would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns brought the lawsuit, arguing it’s unconstitutional because it would force him to break federal immigration law.
Judge Elizabeth Wolford acknowledged she was presiding over an important case and said she hoped to make a decision by mid-November. Kearns would like the judge to implement an injunction to stop the state from implementing the law until it’s fully-litigated.
It is supposed to go into effect in December.
“It’s much better to preserve the status quo, we believe, not only for the sake of the parties involved but also, quite frankly, for the safety of the community while this issue is fully litigated,” Assistant Erie County Attorney Ken Kirby said.
The AG’s office meanwhile would like the case thrown out entirely. They spent much of Wednesday’s proceedings arguing Kearns did not have “standing” to bring the lawsuit because he did not prove he is injured by the law.
The state said, counter to Kearns’s claim, processing licenses for undocumented immigrants would not constitute the federal definition of harboring an illegal alien and therefore he is not at risk of prosecution.
“They don’t want to get to the facts of the case,” Kearns said. “They want this dismissed on a technicality. If they were so confident in their case they wouldn’t let us go to that next step.”
Activists in support of the Green Light Law were in the courtroom for the hearing. They said they’re confident in the attorney general to defend the case and argued Kearns is trying to divide the community.
“We understand that today Mickey Kearns continued to make his frivolous and politically motivated arguments and we know that this law will stand up as constitutional,” Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar of the New York Immigration Coalition said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in Western New York on Wednesday, seemed content to let the issue play out in court. He said the lawsuit was not unexpected and the AG said the Green Light Law would stand up.
Meanwhile, the federal government has asked to get involved as a plaintiff and has a November 12 deadline to submit its papers. It’s unclear if the judge will wait for those arguments before making her decision.