Newburgh resident Raúl Chirinos told Spectrum News on Thursday that New York state's undocumented immigrants' newfound ability to apply for licenses under the Green Light Law is going to change lives and empower families because they will be able to seek work in more places other than just their own neighborhoods.
In Spanish, he explained further.
"For them to have licenses will make life easier here," Chirinos said, whose relatives are licensed, but believes the Green Light Law's will benefit many more people than just those who are undocumented. "They can work all over. It's hard to get many places. People mostly need licenses to work around here."
Getting a license will not be a smooth, easy errand, at least not during the first few weeks the Green Light Law is in effect, starting on Monday. Immigrant rights advocate Regina Lewis was not pleased to learn that, at first, the county's only foreign document scanner will be at Goshen's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
That will make the Goshen DMV the only place in Orange County where people can get the licenses, even though most of the county's immigrants live in Middletown and Newburgh, not Goshen.
"They should have a [better] situation here in Newburgh," Lewis said. "I don't think they should have to go to Goshen, because Goshen is always a problem for us to get to."
Another factor mentioned by immigrant rights advocates is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have an office at the county jail, not far from the DMV on Main Street.
Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt said her staff is anticipating confusion on Monday because the DMV still does not have that one document scanner to verify international ID cards and passports.
"The state of New York is claiming it's been delivered to everyone, or close to everyone," Rabbitt began. "Well, Orange County still has not received the machine."
Orange County Legislator Kevindaryán Luján — a Democrat representing Newburgh — said in an interview on Thursday morning that he approves of how Rabbitt — a Republican who opposed the law — is handling the county's rollout.
He is not pleased with state administrators for not getting Rabbitt's staff the necessary equipment and training in time, forcing them to scramble ahead of Monday. He said he has been on the phone with state lawmakers, trying to speed up the process, and added that Rabbitt assured him any additional document scanners her office receives would be put to use right away.
"I was very confident and very optimistic to hear the clerk say if machines are made available to all our DMVs, then they would make sure they [were] implemented at each of our locations," Luján said.
A representative for District #104, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, told Spectrum News Thursday afternoon that Jacobson recently learned there are three more machines on order for the county's three other DMVs in Middletown, Port Jervis, and Newburgh.
He expects them to arrive in the coming weeks. Once the scanners are in place, undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for licenses at any of the county's four DMVs. Meanwhile, Rabbitt warns of long lines and long waits.
"I will be providing the service on Monday and asking the residents of Orange County to be very considerate and avoid coming into Goshen if you can," Rabbitt said. "Please try to hit our other locations. Until we really have a heartbeat on how many people will be coming in, we really can't say the lines will not be backed up and doubled for the next couple of weeks."