Appeals court strikes down immigrant licenses law challenge

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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)

NEW YORK (AP) — An appeals court dealt another blow Monday to a lawsuit seeking to nullify a New York law allowing immigrants without legal documents to seek driver’s licenses.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Rochester federal judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit by Republican Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns.

The lawsuit last year tried to label New York state’s Green Light Law unconstitutional. The law, which took effect last December, prevents federal immigration and customs authorities from accessing the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles databases without a court order.

Supporters said licenses help immigrants work, transport their family and apply for college and housing while opponents said licenses shouldn’t be given to people who violate federal immigration rules.

Like the lower court, the 2nd Circuit said Kearns lacked standing to sue over the issue. It said that since Kearns lacks authority to implement nondisclosure aspects of the law, he can’t challenge them.

The Green Light Law led the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year to temporarily block New Yorkers from enrolling in travel programs that let them move fast through border and airport lines.

A message seeking comment was sent to a lawyer for Kearns.

In a release, New York Attorney General Letitia James praised the ruling, saying it was the third court to decide in the court’s favor regarding separate lawsuits.

“This law provides protections to all New Yorkers by making our roads safer, growing our economy, and allowing immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state,” she said.

The Green Light Bill grants driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. New York was the 13th state to authorize licenses for drivers without legal immigration status or valid Social Security number. When it was passed, officials estimated that 265,000 immigrants without legal documents would apply for and get driver’s licenses by the end of 2022. Of those, more than half are New York City, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

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