The New York State Assembly has passed and sent on to the State Senate a bill to allow driver's licenses for people in the country illegally. Supporters of Green Light New York are excited - and showed it at a rally in front of Lafayette High School in Buffalo.
"Immigrants, families belong. Together. Immigrant families belong. Together. Buffalo communities stand. Together."
Local advocates of the proposal see their statewide alliance gathering strength, demonstrated by Wednesday's approval vote in the Assembly. However, its fate in the Senate isn't clear.
There is strong opposition. County clerks, like Erie County's Mickey Kearns, say they won't issue the license, while Assembly members say the law would require them to obey. Licenses for undocumented immigrants also is being blasted by tentative congressional candidates, Sen. Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Erie County Republican Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
On Wednesday, Pilgrim St. Luke's Church Pastor Rev. Nancy Rosas cited the Bible.
"Our sacred scriptures tell us that when a foreigner resides among us, we should treat them as we would like to be treated. We should love them as we love ourselves," Rosas said. "Human rights belong to everybody."
Buffalo Parent Teachers Organization Co-Chair Rachel Fix-Dominguez said it is a lesson for her 10-year-old.
"To teach my child right from wrong," she said. "Sometimes, that equation is difficult to solve and it can be challenging to decide if something is moral and just or not. But when it comes to this issue of whether or not we should make our roads safer by licensing and insuring drivers regardless of their citizenship status, the equation is not difficult for me."
Without every mentioning his name, speaker after speaker blasted State Assemblymember Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) for opposing the green light bill. Ryan represents the city's West Side and is considered a candidate for Jacobs' Senate seat if the Buffalo Republican runs for Congress.
"My representative voted against this bill that we are celebrating today," said neighborhood resident Drew Ludwig, "and as Jennifer mentioned, this neighborhood is a wonderful neighborhood. It's a growing neighborhood. It's a great neighborhood to live, in large part due to the number of immigrants that live in this neighborhood. And by denying access or by attempting to deny access to driver's license to those folks, my representative tried to make my neighborhood less safe."
All local members of the Assembly voted against the bill, except for Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes who has strongly supported the proposal.