Immigrant Licenses

A protester holds a sign as members of the state Assembly speak in favor of legislation of the Green Light Bill granting undocumented Immigrant driver's licenses during a rally at the state Capitol Monday, June 17, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Six New York Republican members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. John Katko and Elise Stefanik, hope Attorney General Bill Barr and the Department of Justice will help to block a state law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. 

A letter signed by the six members — U.S. Reps. Chris Collins, Peter King, Tom Reed and Lee Zeldin are the others — requests a review of the law's constitutionality and, if Barr determines it's worthwhile, support for federal litigation that would halt the implementation of the measure. 

The state Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, passed the "Green Light" bill in June that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. Supporters argue it will provide an economic boost and improve safety on the roads. 

Undocumented immigrants would be eligible to apply for standard driver's licenses. It wouldn't be compliant with federal REAL ID requirements, so the identification couldn't be used to board a plane or enter a federal building. 

But New York's congressional Republicans believe concerns raised by county clerks should be considered. 

A provision in the law, which was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and takes effect in December, ensures the Department of Motor Vehicles won't retain immigrants' applications for driver's licenses. That's the usual protocol for DMV when handling applications for standard, non-REAL ID licenses. 

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Clerks are worried about the potential for voter fraud because of a voter registration question on the driver's license application. In their letter, the members of Congress claim the law "does not provide the authority for commissioners to promulgate rules that verify eligibility of applicants who check the box for voter registration." 

The GOP delegation also argued that the standard driver's licenses issued to undocumented immigrants would be "visually identical" to REAL ID licenses. The licenses, they continued, would be "incompatible with federal standards without requiring notice that the license is not for federal purposes." 

Katko, R-Camillus, came out against the Green Light bill in May — a month before it was signed by Cuomo. He said it would have "adverse effects on fraud prevention, identity theft and immigration enforcement." 

"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," Katko said at the time. 

On Thursday, Stefanik echoed Katko's stance. She said she's "very concerned" with the "reckless" law. 

"The Republican New York delegation stands united in insisting the Department of Justice review the constitutionality immediately, and I stand united with our North Country county clerks in opposition to this law," she added.

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.