Although opponents of the “Green Light” bill had some expectation the law would pass before the end of session, the state Senate's decision to bring it to a vote Monday and the governor's subsequent choice to sign it immediately did come as a bit of a surprise.
"I thought that we would have a chance to at least address some of the concerns that are in that bill that we've been trying to get them to address all along," Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski, R, said.
Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, D, and Jastrzemski have said all along if bill became law, they would not process driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Their stance hasn't changed.
"We won't do it. I put it in writing," Kearns said.
He drafted a letter Tuesday to the county attorney giving official notice of his decision. Kearns also said he plans to file a challenge in federal court as he believes the Green Light bill has put him in a position of having to choose whether to follow federal or state law.
"I took an oath of office to uphold the federal constitution," Kearns said.
The new legislation is effective in 180 days. Even though Kearns doesn't plan to enforce the law, he said he still needs to budget for new staff and resources in case the state forces the issue.
"The governor has the power to remove clerks, to remove sheriffs, to remove district attorneys," he said. "He has that power today."
Jastrzemski, meanwhile, said if the state wants to process driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in Niagara County, it can take over the local DMVs.
"I myself as elected as a county clerk, keeper of the records, and that's what I'm doing, keeper of the records," he said. "As far as DMV, I'm just an agent of that."