Fri | Aug 23, 2019

Lawsuit filed over NY law granting driver's licences to illegal immigrants

Published:Wednesday | July 10, 2019 | 2:54 PM
AP photo

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A county clerk in western New York has filed a lawsuit challenging a new state law authorising driver’s licenses for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns’ challenge, filed in federal court, seeks an injunction blocking the law while its constitutionality is reviewed.

Clerks in many other upstate counties have expressed similar concerns about the law, and clerks in Rensselaer, Niagara and Allegany have joined Erie in saying they won’t follow it.

The lawsuit names Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, as defendants in their official capacities, along with the commissioner of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Twelve states already have similar laws, which supporters say allow immigrants to get to work, raise children and go about their daily lives.

The measure, dubbed the “greenlight” bill, passed the state’s Democrat-led Legislature last month and was promptly signed into law by Cuomo.

Kearns, a Democrat, argues the law is unconstitutional and forces county clerks to violate their oaths of office by granting licenses to immigrants who have broken immigration laws.

He said last month that workers at Buffalo-area motor vehicle offices won’t grant driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally and will instead send applicants to a state-run auto bureau in Syracuse, more than two hours away by car.

Kearns said clerks who ignore the new law in favour of federal law may be at risk of being removed from office by Cuomo.

“If we follow the federal law, we’re subject to removal from office,” he said.

“But the state law has constitutional problems and conflicts with federal law. It really puts us in the middle.”

Supporters expected the legal challenge. James’ office reviewed the bill before it passed and has said it is constitutional.

“The legislation is well crafted,” James said in a statement last month, adding: “We will vigorously defend it.”

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