Local Officials Echo Concerns about Green Light Bill

June 12, 2019

Local county clerks from Fulton and Herkimer counties today joined Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R,C,Ref-Meco) in raising serious concerns about the New York State Assembly’s approval of a bill that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain official driver’s licenses in New York.

The bill, A.3675b, allows the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue standard driver’s licenses to anyone regardless of immigration status. If signed into law, this bill will change current procedures and require DMV to accept foreign passports, consular documents and foreign driver’s licenses that could be expired up to two years as proper identification in place of a Social Security Number.

County clerks raised concerns about verifying these documents, as well as the legal conflicts involved in enforcing this legislation.

“Local DMV personnel do not have the proper training or expertise needed to determine the authenticity of foreign birth certificates, foreign passports or consular cards, nor to verify evidence of an undocumented individual’s residency in the state,” said Fulton County Clerk Linda Koller. “Driver’s licenses can be used to obtain additional official identification documents that are intended only for U.S. Citizens. If this bill is passed, it would permit undocumented persons who are present in the U.S. illegally under federal law to obtain a NYS driver’s license.”

Herkimer County Clerk Sylvia M. Rowan said, “I refuse to break a federal law that prohibits me from giving licenses to undocumented people. I already have to turn people away from my office who do not have the proper documentation to get a Real ID or an EDL license, now we’re going to have undocumented individuals coming to our counter without any? I’m not sure we have the proper resources to even process foreign documents and prove that they’re legitimate.”

Smullen maintains that legal immigration is important for our country and always has been, but the U.S. must keep measures in place to ensure we are taking in those willing to come through the front door legally to pursue the American Dream. Comprehensive immigration reform and proper vetting are needed for a better path to citizenship, but offering a license to drive for people who are here illegally is not the solution.

“This is irresponsible and could be dangerous,” said Smullen. “It opens up an avenue for those individuals whose intent is to cause harm to U.S. citizens to obtain government documents. Rural upstate counties lack the resources to do comprehensive checks on foreign documents, so this is yet another unfunded mandate that could lead to very serious consequences.”