GOP Senators Try To Force Vote On Repealing New York's Green Light Law

Feb 26, 2020

Senate Republicans planned to offer an amendment to repeal New York’s Green Light Law, which permits undocumented immigrants to apply for drives licenses. It has caused friction with the federal government because the law also blocks access to New York’s DMV database.

The administration of President Donald Trump recently blocked access to Trusted Traveler Programs for New Yorkers. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, among other federal agencies, say they need to see data from New York’s DMV to vet applicants for programs like Global Entry and NEXUS.

Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan, who met with border patrol officials on Monday, says the problem is even more dire. He says the agents told him that without the data they are hampered in their fight against terrorism.

“One of the people there said absolutely that people are going to get hurt,” Flanagan warned. “They also stressed that the DMV database is the absolute start point of everything. Without that they have a hand tied behind their back. They can’t do their jobs properly.”

Flanagan says while 12 other states allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, only New York has put deep restrictions on the use of its DMV database by other law enforcement agencies.  

He says the law needs to be reversed.

“We’re offering an amendment to repeal this law,” said Flanagan, who said Democrats in state government are “undermining public safety.”

The Green Light Law is one of the signature pieces the all-Democratic legislature approved in 2019, and many Democrats are reluctant to make changes.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has tried negotiating with the federal agencies to reach a compromise. He says he told federal agencies they could have driver’s license data for New Yorkers applying for the Trusted Traveler Programs, or TTP. And he says he’s skeptical that they need the DMV data to fight crime, and has asked federal officials to detail their claims.

“You have a theory by which we are interfering with criminal enforcement? Explain it to me,” Cuomo said.

The governor thinks the real reason the Trump administration wants access to the DMV database is to make it easier to deport undocumented immigrants.

And the governor says he’s never giving over that data.

“First rule is, there is no access to the database for immigration purposes,” Cuomo said.

The Assembly majority leader, Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, in an interview with public radio and television, says she does not want to see the Green Light Law altered. She says her western New York constituents, who frequently cross the border into Canada, are affected by the standoff. Peoples-Stokes says the real solution, though, is to get rid of the current president.

“I don’t know how you talk to a guy who can’t always have a rational discussion,” said Peoples-Stokes. “It’s always about how do you pay somebody back for something. That may have worked in his business life, but it really doesn’t work well for government.”

And she says she hopes that we have a new president in November.