"Green Light" Creates Major Public Safety Hazard

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski)
February 14, 2020

New York’s “Green Light” law, which allows illegal immigrants to obtain a state driver’s license, is problematic on many levels. That it exists at all encourages individuals to illegally come to the U.S., ignore federal immigration laws and avoid seeking legitimate, sanctioned citizenship. But, one of the worst facets of the law is the component that blocks federal law enforcement agencies from accessing the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) database.

This was a law intentionally designed to obstruct security officials in their efforts to combat drug trafficking, human trafficking and transnational gang activities. As such, it should not be surprising that New York will no longer be allowed to participate in Global Entry and other “trusted traveler” programs allowing more efficient security stops for pre-screened travelers unlikely to pose national security risks. But, the inconvenience of waiting on a longer line at the airport pales in comparison to the true harm of this law. All told, the “Green Light” law needlessly makes it harder to catch criminals.

The statistics surrounding the relationship between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the New York DMV are staggering; on a daily basis, ICE uses DMV data to fight a substantial criminal element smuggling drugs and sex workers into the country. In 2019, ICE arrested 149 child predators, seized 6,487 pounds of illegal narcotics, identified or rescued 105 victims of human trafficking/exploitation and arrested 230 gang members – all in New York alone. To intentionally disrupt this relationship is irresponsible, dangerous and the worst kind of political stunt.

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association recently issued a letter to the governor and legislative Majorities calling out the law as a serious threat to the safety of officers working to stop dangerous criminals operating in New York state. It points out in order for the sheriffs to keep their own officers safe by allowing access to DMV data, they had to sign a non-disclosure agreement that jeopardizes their federal partners. It is truly an offensive ultimatum the governor has thrust upon our sheriffs.

Simply put, a New York state driver’s license is a privilege for citizens. Instead, Gov. Cuomo is using it as a tool toward his political agenda. The U.S. has laws in place allowing individuals who want to become citizens to do so. By sanctioning the behaviors of those looking for a shortcut, New York has cheapened what it means to be a citizen and devalues the legal immigration process.

New York is less safe while this law is in place. This law needs to be repealed, and law enforcement agencies need unfettered access to whatever information they need to do their jobs to keep our communities safe. Anything short of that is wrong for the people of New York.