Erie County Clerk “will not be granting drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants” despite new law

Regional News

Erie County Clerk Michael “Mickey” Kearns is sending a strong message to Albany, rebuking a bill which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers’ licenses.

The Green Light Bill was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo just hours after passing the state Senate Monday. It was passed by the assembly last week.

On Tuesday, Kearns sent a letter to Erie County Attorney Michael Siragusa, asking him for representation in a lawsuit over the legislation in federal court.

“I will not be granting drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants,” Kearns professed in the letter.

A spokesperson for Siragusa acknowledged that the letter had been delivered, and that he “will be reviewing the request to make a determination on any potential action.”

The law makes New York the 13th state nationwide, plus the District of Columbia, to grant undocumented immigrants the opportunity to apply for licenses. It passed the legislature despite a lack of support from voters in the Empire State. A Siena Poll conducted earlier this month concluded that 53 percent of New Yorkers were against the idea.

Jennifer Connor was in favor of it, however. She is an organizer for the Green Light Campaign, which supported the bill. Connor was in Albany when the senate vote was taken.

“The only reason to be against this all along has been xenophobia and fear,” Connor said.

Kearns’ opposition to the bill is not new. However, he doubled down on Tuesday in sending the letter to Siragusa. Speaking with News 4, Kearns suggested the Green Light Bill may be a violation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, a federal measure which was signed by President Ronald Reagan.

“In the bill, there’s no funding for training,” Kearns said. “Our staff can’t decipher between the 195 countries, 195 passports.”

As it stands now, the law is scheduled to take effect in December. Kearns is hoping to get it thrown out before then. If it does go into effect, however, he vowed not to follow it.

When asked if he is prepared to be thrown of out office by Governor Cuomo over the law, Kearns said, “He has the power. However through my research, working through my legal team, we have to be charged. There has to be some charges, and I get to answer those charges. It’s almost one of those things we’re preparing for. I hope it doesn’t happen.”

Connor estimates of the 900,000 undocumented people in New York State, about 200,000 of them will apply for a license. She says she will fight in order to allow them to do so.

“We will come after you if you don’t uphold the law because of racism and xenophobia,” she said.

Governor Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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