Green Light Law, one month in: Kearns renews court fight, advocates urge taking business elsewhere

Jan 14, 2020

One month after New York State's Green Light Law took effect, the Erie County Clerk has renewed a legal fight while advocates for those who may take advantage of the law are renewing their recommendation to bring such business to a bureau that will respect the law.

Last week, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns filed an appellate brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City. His most recent legal action challenges a lower court's refusal to look at the Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain a driver's license. He's also challenging that court's dismissal of his lawsuit on the grounds he lacks the standing to sue.

Erie County Clerk Michael ("Mickey") Kearns is continuing his legal challenge of the state's Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain a driver's license.
Credit WBFO file photo

"The Attorney General boldly claims the courts found the law to be legal but that's blatantly false, in light of these procedural dismissals," said Kearns in a prepared statement. "The fact remains that the law is unconstitutional and I remain faced with the prospect of harboring prosecution if I follow the Green Light Law and removal from office if I refuse to enforce such a high-profile piece of the Governor's progressive agenda."

Critics, including Kearns, suggest the law creates an easy path to granting voting rights to the same undocumented immigrants. Jennifer Connor, executive director of Justice for Migrant Families, says that's not true and even the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles website states such.

"There's lots of misinformation. People need to keep being informed about what the law really accomplishes," she said. "Public safety, money at the DMV and drivers on the road who know the rules of the road."

Connor suggests those seeking correct information may find it either at the DMV website or at Green Light New York. She also recommends anyone seeking a driver's license, no just undocumented immigrants, take their business to an auto bureau that is willing to respect the law.

"Meanwhile, in other parts of the state, we have clerks who have been able to train their employees efficiently and feel good about it," Connor said. "We have DMVs that are offering extended hours. We have DMVs that are literally making more money because they have new applicants under this law. And that's a missed opportunity here."