Undocumented immigrants now able to apply for driver’s licenses

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles sign hangs over a Manhattan office.
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles sign hangs over a Manhattan office.
Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock

Undocumented immigrants now able to apply for driver’s licenses

Upstate county clerks continue to criticize the law, which has survived two legal challenges
December 16, 2019

It took overcoming two legal challenges, but New York’s law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses is finally going into effect

The challenges surrounding what has been dubbed the Green Light Law aren’t over yet. Just as the legalization of same-sex marriage led to rebellious county clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, county clerks throughout upstate New York have also vocally opposed this initiative. The suits against the law have all been filed by county clerks, including one that is still pending in state court. They’ve accused the state of hastily implementing the law and not applying sufficient safeguards to stop people with Social Security numbers from claiming they never received one while applying for a license, which could potentially allow people to conceal their true identities. 

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns already got in trouble while trying to take matters into his own hands this past week. He put up signs at the county clerk’s office with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement tip line and the slogan, “if you see something, say something” – a slogan trademarked by the MTA, which sent him a cease-and-desist notice.

The backlash likely won’t be felt in counties like Westchester, where the state runs local Department of Motor Vehicles sites. And it still marks a major victory for immigration advocates who pushed the law through this year’s legislative session, giving approximately 882,000 undocumented immigrants in New York the chance to legally drive in the state.

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.
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