Erie County employees have been thrust in the middle of a political and legal battle over New York’s new Green Light Law.
County Clerk Mickey Kearns has maintained the auto bureaus under his management will not process driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, despite the new law.
A source familiar with the situation said employees are “concerned, frightened and frustrated” about their position.
The source also said the county department of personnel has notified employees they will not be disciplined if they chose to ignore the clerk’s directive and follow the state law.
A spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he has been “pretty clear” everyone should follow the law without exception.
“For the record, the county executive says everyone should follow the law today, this weekend, Monday and every day after that, regardless of if they like it or not,” said press secretary Peter Anderson.
However, the source said employee concerns are not about whether they agree with the law, but whether their jobs are at stake or if they could potentially face prosecution.
Last week, Kearns announced he would post the Immigration and Customs Enforcement tipline number at all customer service windows and staff worries if anyone at the auto bureaus reports private information they obtained from an official form or conversation, it could fall back on individual county workers.
Last month, a federal judge dismissed Kearns’s challenge of the Green Light Law, ruling he did not have standing. Erie County attorneys are in the process of appealing that decision while a judge is expected to make, at least, a preliminary decision this week on a separate lawsuit from the Rensselaer County Clerk.
The Green Light Law technically goes into effect on Saturday, December 14, but few auto bureaus are actually open that day. Kearns said state software to help process the licenses won’t be ready until Monday, December 16.
The Civil Service Employees Association of New York represents auto bureau staff across the state. The union was reluctant Tuesday to do an interview but said it would send a statement.
CSEA said it takes no official position on the Green Light Law.