Erie County Comptroller offers way for clerks to report illegal immigrants seeking driver’s licenses

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Mychajliw on Green Light Bill

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is giving clerks uneasy with the Green Light Bill an option.

The state legislation, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, gives undocumented immigrants the right to apply for a driver’s license using a foreign passport.

Mychajliw sent a letter to each county clerk in New York State, inviting them and their employees to make use of the Whistleblower Hotline, which is operated by the Comptroller’s office.

Mychajliw’s letter began with him mentioning that he “swore an oath to support the Constitution.” He believes the new law “snarls with contempt,” instead of defending the Constitution.

Explaining the Whistleblower Hotline, Mychajliw said “Its purpose is to assist taxpayers with concerns about governmental issues. If we cannot provide assistance, we direct the concerns to individuals better suited to help.”

The Comptroller says that if the Whistleblower Hotline is used for reports of illegal immigrants obtaining driver’s licenses, his office would forward the reports to federal authorities.

The hotline itself was created by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz while he was serving the role of Comptroller.

But, Poloncarz says this was not the intended use for it.

“I created the Whistleblower Hotline as a way for citizens to report the waste, fraud and abuse of county resources,” Poloncarz said. “This use of it is itself an abuse of county resources. If the Comptroller wants to create this hotline to advance his own political ambitions, he should pay for it.”

Poloncarz said he has asked Michael Siragusa, the county attorney, to file for a declaratory order in federal court to determine whether the Green Light Bill is constitutional.

“If a federal judge determines the bill to be constitutional, the county executive expects all county officials and employees to respect the decision of the court,” said a statement released by Poloncarz’s office.

Legislator Lynne Dixon, who is challenging Poloncarz for county executive in November, blasted the incumbent for not saying whether he supports giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

“Our residents deserve better,” Dixon said. “The legal immigrants who followed the law to come into this country deserve better.”

Meanwhile, opponents of the Green Light Bill, including Mychajliw, are expressing concern that it could give undocumented immigrants an opportunity to illegally vote in elections. When signing up for a driver’s license, applicants have the chance to register with the board of elections.

“It automatically pops up on the customer-facing devices, questions with regard to registering to vote,” explained Genesee County Clerk Michael Cianfrini. “This is automatic. The cashiers are not able to disable this function. They’re not able to change an answer. Basically anyone doing a license transaction can register.”

John Conklin, a spokesperson for the New York State Board of Elections, explained in an email that when registering, a potential voter must check a box confirming they are a citizen.

“This is an honor system,” Conklin explained.

The applicant must sign a sworn statement asserting that they are being truthful. If they lie, Conklin explained they could be charged with perjury, and face a fine of $5,000 and/or up to four years in prison.

The Whistleblower Hotline can be accessed here.

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