Katko Town Hall

Rep. John Katko answers questions during a town hall meeting at Cayuga Community College in 2018.

U.S. Rep. John Katko and other central New York Republican elected officials criticized a proposal that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. 

Katko, R-Camillus, announced his opposition to the state bill in a statement released Saturday. 

"Rather than legitimizing illegal immigration, policymakers at all levels of government should be focused on creating a comprehensive solution on immigration that balances the needs of our economy, immigrants and their families, and strong national security," he said. 

The legislation introduced by state Sen. Luis Sepulveda and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, Katko added, is "could have adverse effects on fraud prevention, identity theft and immigration enforcement." 

The bill sponsored by Crespo and Sepulveda, both Bronx Democrats, would allow the state Department of Motor Vehicles to issue non-federal, standard driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. 

In the justification for the bill, Sepulveda writes that the state's prohibition on undocumented immigrants obtaining driver's licenses "has had and is continuing to have a negative impact on the economy." He cited declining unemployment rates and a tight labor market as reasons why his bill is necessary. 

"This legislation addresses the long-held need by undocumented immigrants and workers to secure driving privileges not only to get back and forth to work but to conduct the task of their personal lives like going to doctor visits and taking their children to school," the bill states. 

While many Democrats in the state Legislature support the bill, Republicans oppose it. 

The Conservative Party, which traditionally cross-endorses Republicans in state-level races, held a press conference Saturday in Syracuse to pan the proposal. State Sen. Bob Antonacci is among those who spoke out against the bill. 

Antonacci, R-Onondaga, believes undocumented immigrants shouldn't be eligible for driver's licenses. 

"If someone is in our country illegally, they are breaking the law," he said. 

A handful of central New York county clerks joined the Conservative Party in opposition to the bill. Cayuga County Clerk Sue Dwyer was one of the clerks who criticized the proposal. Earlier this year, Dwyer urged the Cayuga County Legislature to adopt a resolution opposing the measure. 

Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus argued that the state bill would circumvent federal immigration laws. 

"DMV customers are already frustrated and adding controversial immigration issues to that workload is not helping cut taxes, shorten lines or speed up transactions," he said. 

The driver's license proposal, dubbed the "Green Light" bill, could be considered by the state Legislature before the end of the legislative session in mid-June. The Assembly and Senate bills are awaiting action in committee. 

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