Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Federal Court Affirms New York's Green Light Law Allowing Undocumented Immigrants To Seek Driver's Licenses


Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse

The eligibility  of undocumented immigrants for state-issued driver's licenses has been an issue of controversy in recent years.  A growing number of states have passed laws allowing undocumented immigrants to secure licenses.  Sophia Chang for Gothamist reports on recent developments on the issue in New York:

"A federal court has upheld New York’s law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses against a lawsuit brought by an upstate county clerk who claimed the law would make him personally liable for violating U.S. immigration policy.  

In a ruling issued Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns’s 2019 lawsuit seeking to block the state’s Green Light law.

Kearns had sued Governor Andrew Cuomo, state Attorney General Letitia James, and New York’s Department of Motor Vehicle Commissioner Mark Schroeder on grounds that he could be prosecuted under federal immigration law for performing certain duties under the Green Light law, which shields the personal data of applicants from federal law enforcement.

Once the Green Light law took effect last December, Kearns posted “If you see something, say something” signs in the Erie County auto bureaus with an ICE tipline phone number, according to WGRZ. He had his staff take photocopies of foreign paperwork even though that’s against state policy, the Buffalo News reported: `The state has informed county clerks they are not allowed to save any of the foreign identification proofs presented to them, but Kearns's staff is making photocopies of all foreign proofs. Kearns cited a passage in the law that says documents may be retained ‘for a limited period necessary to ensure the validity and authenticity of such documents.’'”

Judge Barrington Parker wrote the unanimous opinion, which affirmed dismissal of the suit on standing grounds.


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