ALBANY — A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit by a county clerk outside Albany that sought to block implementation of the new Green Light law that will permit people in the country illegally to obtain New York driver’s licenses.
The law effectively kicks in Monday.
In a sharply worded ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe said Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola lacked standing to bring the challenge because county clerks in New York State are, for the most part, considered “merely subdivisions of the state” charged with carrying out the laws of the state. The judge said Merola made some of his arguments “snarkily” and in “half-hearted” ways.
The ruling in the case brought against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state motor vehicles office came after another federal judge rejected a similar lawsuit against the law brought by Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns.
Kearns has been a vocal critic of the Green Light law, saying that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is a public safety issue, a judgment he said is based on conversations he’s had with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
On Friday, 27 county clerks from around the state — including Kearns and Niagara County’s Joseph Jastrzemski — called on Cuomo and the DMV to delay implementation of the law “for the safety and security of all New Yorkers.” Jastrzemski earlier in the day announced he would comply with the new law, though he raised a number of concerns about its provisions.
The clerks said the state has failed to provide adequate training of DMV workers in offices run by county clerks and that safeguards are inadequate to ensure that fraudulent foreign-issued documents are not used by applicants. The law, for instance, allows migrants covered by the law to get a license without a U.S. Social Cecurity number by using valid foreign passports or other documents.
The clerks warned against “unacceptable security risks” that will be posed by the new law.
The Cuomo administration rejected the request by the clerks, saying that the implementation date was ordered by a state law approved earlier this year by state lawmakers and the governor.
Lisa Koumjian, a DMV spokeswoman, said county clerks’ offices have been provided training and new identification authentication machines and that clerks are welcome to contact DMV officials if they need further instruction. She said DMV offices will be using “well-established” protocols for reporting possible fraud. The state will have DMV investigators using tools, such as facial recognition, to prevent fraud.
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