The battle over New York's Green Light Bill is moving from legislative chambers into the courts. The law grants undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses in the state, which was signed by Governor Cuomo last month.
But legal action continues to challenge the measure.
Local government officials are gearing up to challenge New York's law that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. But an even bigger showdown with President Donald Trump's administration is also possible.
Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola on Tuesday telling Spectrum News he plans in the coming days to file a federal lawsuit challenging the state's Green Light law, blocking undocumented immigrants from applying for and receiving driver's licenses. Merola says he'll refuse to issue licenses to suspected undocumented immigrants at the county DMV office he runs.
“I'm hoping we're going to do it in the next couple of days and we're ready,” said Merola. “Let me tell you about the governor: He doesn't want to listen to the people. We hope he's going to listen to the courts.”
In Western New York, Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns on Tuesday went ahead with a separate legal challenge to the law, also in federal court.
“This law was unconstitutional,” said Kearns. “It's hastily written. The governor signed it very quickly. He even realizes and stated it's going to be challenged in the courts.”
Immigration advocates like Anu Joshi of the New York Immigration Coalition who back the law knocked the lawsuits.
“These county clerks are taking it upon themselves which laws they're going to enforce and they're wasting money in these frivolous lawsuits,” said Joshi.
But Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday seemed more concerned about a potential legal battle with the federal government over accessing DMV records to find undocumented immigrants. Cuomo believes the Trump administration's efforts to access those records will set up a legal showdown.
“We won't know the answer until we go to court,” said Cuomo. “We know they're doing it. They have done it in other states. We know some states have tried to stop them and they've gone to court to stop them.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reportedly have used facial recognition software to comb through other states databases to find people living in the U.S. illegally. Advocate Anu Joshi, however, says that won't be the case in New York.
“We had the privilege of learning from those other states and we crafted a bill with the strongest privacy protections in the country,” said Joshi.
The law is set to take effect in December.