Troy, NY – Senator Daphne Jordan (R,C,I,Ref-Halfmoon), Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R,C,I,Ref-Castleton), Rensselaer County Sheriff Pat Russo, Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett and Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo’s office held a press conference this morning at the Rensselaer County DMV inTroy where they outlined their strong opposition to state legislation that would provide illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses.
Legislation is currently pending before the NYS Senate – Senate Bill S.1747, the so-called “Green Light Bill” sponsored by New York City Democratic Senator Luis Sepúlveda – that would allow the issuance of state driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The measure was introduced on January 16, 2019, and is presently in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Senator Sepúlveda’s legislation is the latest push to provide driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, an unpopular policy strongly supported by former Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned from office in disgrace. In the face of a firestorm of statewide, grassroots opposition from voters – and steadfast opposition from County Clerks and members of the New York State Legislature in 2007 – Spitzer abandoned his effort.
Providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants would jeopardize traffic safety and compromise public security for all New Yorkers. Some of the leading reasons against the effort include the following:
·Issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants creates a double standard for people applying for a standard license;
·Opens the door to voter fraud, bank fraud, and ID theft;
·Bans the DMV from sharing any databases with third parties including law enforcement, hindering their ability to search traffic records during a routine traffic stop;
·Allows scofflaws to thwart multiple traffic violations to obtain a license after their actual license has been revoked; and
·Creates a loophole for underage children to obtain valid DMV-issued IDs to unlawfully buy alcohol, cigarettes, and possibly soon, “recreational” marijuana.
“The legislation advanced by Democratic Senator Sepulveda is misguided and sends a message that the rule of law is inconsequential. Senate Bill S.1747 would establish a double standard for driver’s licenses, open the door to ID theft and jeopardize public safety. This particular bill caters to illegal immigrants and the privacy this bill purports to protect, by not allowing law enforcement to review driving records during a routine traffic stop, pertains to illegals. An estimated 265,000 illegal immigrants would get driver’s licenses if this bill becomes law and this would not make our roads or communities safer. The legislation also sets a double standard because those that are legal citizens would have their records reviewed at a routine traffic stop while illegals would not. This is neither fair nor good for public safety – or New York. The system this bill creates allows abuse by anyone – not just an illegal immigrant – that’s looking to do wrong or to hide their prior traffic offenses or criminal record. New York State doesn’t need a two-tiered system of justice: one for citizens and one for those here illegally. I’m the proud granddaughter of Greek immigrants and legal immigration is something I fully support. This issue isn’t about immigrants; it’s about the law and respect for the rule of law. It’s for these reasons that I oppose the legislation and will continue speaking out against it,” Senator Daphne Jordan (R,C,I,Ref-Halfmoon) said.
Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner said,“The process of licensing people who apply for a driver license is about ensuring public security and traffic safety. If passed by the legislature and signed in to law, this misguided legislation will remove very important safeguards currently in place to confirm a person is who they claim to be and strip law enforcement access to State DMV databases used to enforce traffic safety laws - two tools that help State DMV and law enforcement confirm a person's identity and make sure they are a responsible driver. This legislation takes away tools put in to place to help prevent fraud and crime. It takes us backwards, not forward.”
“I have seen a lot during my 32 year career in Motor Vehicles, but I am still amazed at the audacity of State officials in their drive to grant illegals a driver’s license. A license is the most important document a person can possess and to potentially give licenses out without regards to citizenship just cheapens the documents and the process,” Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola said.
“For an issue as impactful as this, it’s important to seek information directly from the experts who deal with it every day,” said Assemblyman Jake Ashby. “Today I am joined by multiple County Clerks and Sheriffs who are expressing their concerns with this policy change. If the individuals responsible for carrying out the program have these serious concerns, I can’t see why we would rush this through.”
“Based on my more than 42 years of law enforcement experience, I believe that handing out driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is a bad public policy that could endanger our fellow New Yorkers, contribute to ID theft and fraud, and ultimately make the job of law enforcement even more difficult. A driver’s license allows individuals to obtain other vital forms of identification that lets them access airports, passports and so much more. This is why we need to ensure that driver’s licenses are secure and not being issued without verifiable proof that someone is who they say they are. My top priority as Rensselaer County Sheriff is to uphold the rule of law and ensure the safety and security of the families that my deputies and I swore an oath to serve and protect. Legislation giving illegal immigrants’ driver’s licenses runs contrary to my office’s mission and it is not something I support, either as Sheriff, or as a lifelong resident of our great County,” Rensselaer County Sheriff Pat Russo said.
“I don’t believe this has anything to do with trying to make our roadways more safe, but everything to do with Albany politics. A driver's license doubles as a photo identification; a document used to positively identify individuals, and in some instances used to control access to venues and locations for security purposes. I don't support any measure that would put security or the rule of law at risk,” Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said.
“Legislation giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is a misguided public policy that would compromise traffic safety and enforcement, create a double standard for driver licenses, and open gaping loopholes that could be exploited for fraud. I supported the resolution adopted by our Saratoga County Board of Supervisors expressing strong concerns about the legislation and its myriad unintended consequences. Respecting the rule of law and emphasizing public safety – in our neighborhoods and on our roadways – is a top priority for the men and women I lead and the taxpayers we serve. Our Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office is committed to safer streets, fighting crime and combatting fraud, and this poorly written legislation would curtail our ability in all of these critical facets, which is why I joined my Saratoga County colleagues in opposing the measure,” Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said.
“Throughout the course of the Legislative Session we have seen several complicated proposals rushed through as part of the Democrats’ agenda - affording drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants cannot be next on the check list,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I – Ballston). “Over a decade ago we saw this measure stymied because of strong opposition from county clerks and legislators on both sides of the aisle. I am hopeful that common sense will prevail, and that the reasons prompting previous outrage will once again hinder any forward movement of this legislation. We cannot cheapen the rights of New York residents by expanding them to those who have come to our state unlawfully. These rights are earned, not given out.”