BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A decision on whether an injunction preventing New York’s controversial Green Light Law from going into effect should be made around mid-November. That’s what Hon. Elizabeth Wolford said during a court hearing on the matter Wednesday morning.
The law, passed earlier this year by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. It includes provisions which restrict DMV employees from sharing information about those driver’s licenses with federal immigration authorities. It is scheduled to take effect December 14th.
Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, who operates the DMVs in Erie County, filed a lawsuit against Cuomo, and is requesting that the law be stopped from taking effect. He has expressed concern that enforcing some provisions of the law would require him to break federal law.
“I will go on the record right now and I will say I will not, and I’ve said this numerous times, issue driver’s licenses to people who are here illegally,” Kearns said after the hearing Wednesday.
“It is much better to preserve the status quo, we believe, not only for the sake of the parties involved, but also quite frankly for the safety of the community,” said Assistant Erie County Attorney Ken Kirby, who argued Kearns’ case for an injunction in court.
Kirby said if Kearns enforces the Green Light Law as written, he faces a credible threat of prosecution under federal anti-harboring laws. On the other hand, he argued, if Kearns doesn’t enforce the Green Light Law, he faces the threat of being removed from office by Cuomo.
Assistant New York State Solicitor General Linda Fang countered such actions under the Green Light Law would not rise to the level of “harboring” as defined by federal law. She also claimed New York State DMV workers are already prohibited from accessing driver’s license information for non-DMV purposes. Fang has filed a motion asking the Kearns lawsuit to be dismissed.
“We are pleased with today’s proceedings and look forward to a favorable decision,” New York State Attorney General Letitia James told News 4 after the hearing, adding the Green Light Law makes the state’s roads safer and its economy stronger. “As the state’s attorney and chief law enforcement officer, I will continue to vigorously defend this law against all who oppose it.”
Cuomo, who made a stop in Western New York Wednesday, was asked to comment on the hearing.
“The attorney general reviewed the bill before,” Cuomo said. “The attorney general said that she was confident of a victory, that she could sustain the law. This is not anything that wasn’t predicted.”
Fang and the attorney general’s office were supported by about a dozen immigration advocates from across New York State.
“There are 12 other states that already have access to driver’s licenses for immigrants regardless of immigration status,” pointed out Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar from the New York Immigration Coalition. “We have full confidence the New York State Attorney General and the courts will uphold the constitutionality.
A poll released this month by the Siena Research Institute indicated New York State residents are divided over the Green Light Law. Forty-eight percent of people who responded to the poll said they support the law, while 47 percent oppose it.