At least five county clerks in upstate New York are rebelling against the new ‘Green Light Bill’ recently signed into law by Governor Cuomo, saying they’ll refuse to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants when the law takes effect in six months.
The measure, which passed the State Senate 33-29, allows those who are in the country illegally the right to a driver’s license.
Clerks in Rensselaer, Allegany, Erie, Chautauqua and Niagara counties have announced that they will not grant a license to anyone in the country illegally, citing conflicts with federal law.
The New York Post reported on Tuesday that the State Board of Elections and the bill’s own sponsors openly admitted that the law could lead to non-citizens illegally registering to vote.
For Democrats, that appears to be a feature, not a bug.
“Theoretically, they could have the ability to vote,” sponsor Luis Sepúlveda (D) said while arguing in favor of the bill.
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin said in an interview Wednesday that the voter fraud problem was “by design,” and predicted that in a year’s time, Democrats will be openly pushing for illegals to vote, since “they’re here anyway.”
Erie County Clerk Michael Kerns told the New York Post he’s ready to go to court to fight what he believes to be an inconsistent and unconstitutional law.
“In the memo of the bill, they talk about the reason why they’re passing this bill is to make sure that people who are here illegally can get to and from work,” Kerns said. “It is illegal to hire people in the state of New York or anywhere that are here illegally. There’s an inconsistency there.”
Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola is another upstate refusenik.
“I’m going to refuse to issue a driver’s license to anyone who comes into my office that can’t prove to us they’re here legally. Federal law states we’re not allowed to aid someone who comes into our office who is here illegally,” Merola told CBS 6 News.
“There’s no right to a driver’s license. It’s a privilege. It’s not a privilege we should be giving to someone that’s here illegally,” he stated in another interview. “I’m not anti-immigrant. My wife is a naturalized citizen.”
McLaughlin announced on Wednesday that his office is filing suit in federal court to prevent implementation of of the bill. Merola has joined the lawsuit and both are encouraging other leaders in the state to step forward.
“We are proud to pursue legal relief on behalf of the hard working residents of Rensselaer County and encourage other counties to join us in blocking this law,” McLaughlin said. “This legal action is a necessary response to Albany’s out of control contempt for any semblance of governance. Albany is back to its old tricks of pushing legislation through in the eleventh hour to appease a vocal minority without considering the impact on county government operations and our taxpayers.”
“This action on behalf of the residents of Rensselaer County is a necessary step in the face of this ill-conceived law. We encourage local leaders across the state to join with us in this endeavor to protect the Constitutional rights of every citizen,” County Executive McLaughlin concluded.
“It’s not going to happen here in Rensselaer County,” McLaughlin told 6News. “It just is not.”
He says not only does it violate federal law, but it’s a slap in the face to legal citizens.
“You didn’t have to earn getting into this country. You don’t get to break into our country and act as if you’re a United States citizen, and that’s what’s happening with these insane lunatic progressives in the New York State legislature right now,” said McLaughlin.
While many who support the law say it will help grow the economy, make our roads safer, and keep families together, McLaughlin argues that what it really comes down to is getting undocumented immigrants the right to vote.
“All this is by design, and I’m guaranteeing within a year, they’re going to start to say let’s just let them vote, they’re here anyway,” he said.
Niagra County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski told WKBW TV that he is “totally appalled” that New York has “become a lawless state.”
“This law is totally unconstitutional,” he said, complaining that it puts clerks in a compromising position. “Do we follow the federal law that says [if] somebody is in our country illegally, turn them in to Immigration and Customs or do we reward them with this silly state law that they [passed].”
Chautauqua County Clerk Larry Barmore said he would refuse to enforce the fatally flawed law: “If you come into our DMV with a birth certificate from another country in a foreign language that we can’t read, we will send you away,” he told WKBW.
Earlier this week, State Attorney General Letitia James said her office would defend the measure if it is challenged in court.
“I support the Green Light bill, and the Office of Attorney General has concluded that it is constitutional. We will not opine on any actions the federal government may or may not take,” James said in a statement. “The legislation is well crafted and contains ample protections for those who apply for driver’s licenses. If this bill is enacted and challenged in court, we will vigorously defend it.”
It’s unclear what will happen to clerks who refuse to enforce state law, but Erie County Clerk Michael Kerns has a pretty good idea.
He told the New York Post that he knows the governor can strip him of his position. It remains to be seen how many other county clerks will step up to oppose the unpopular law. Cattaraugus County Clerk Alan Bernstein, who also opposed the bill, was not exactly a profile in courage when asked by WKBW what he plans to do.
“I don’t think I was elected to defy the state laws, I guess,” he said.