After a little late night drama on Monday, the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act passed the state Legislature on the thinnest of margins and was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The law, better known as the Greenlight Act (A3675-B/S1747-B), expands the variety of acceptable documents for applying for drivers licenses to include foreign, valid passports and drivers licenses, although the licenses will be stamped with a label indicating they are not valid for federal use, such as flying.
The law passed the Assembly 87-61 on June 12, with both Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush, R-Black River and Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown voting against it. On Monday, the Senate passed the bill 33-29, with seven Democrats and all 22 Republicans voting against the bill.
“Immigration has been a longstanding federal issue that has challenged many administrations and Congresses and cannot be addressed state by state,” Senate Deputy Minority Leader Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said. “The legislation passed by the state Senate today is another example of New York State adopting laws that flaunt longstanding federal laws pertaining to citizenship. We are a nation of laws. We cannot choose which laws we want to follow for our own political gain.”
Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, also opposed the law — in part as a financial burden on local government.
“I have continually opposed this measure for a number of reasons — namely because it opens New York State up to security risks, will increase the likelihood of voter fraud and will saddle local governments with another unfunded mandate, as most DMV offices will need to hire new staff to handle the influx of requests for licenses,” Sen. Ritchie said. “Obtaining a driver license is not a right — it’s a privilege reserved for law-abiding New Yorkers.”
On Monday, Gov. Cuomo expressed skepticism about the bill, saying he was not sure the data could be kept safe from federal immigration enforcement. Around 8:30 p.m. Monday, after the Senate vote, the governor’s office sent out a statement from counsel Alphonso David.
“The Solicitor General was asked to review bill number A3675-B/S1747-B to ensure that undocumented individuals who apply for driver’s licenses or identification cards would not be unintentionally exposed to a Federal government seeking to use their information for deportation,” the statement read. “In response, the Attorney General stated that she believes there are “safeguards” in the bill, and it can be defended; in other words, it cannot be weaponized to be used against undocumented individuals.”
Gov. Cuomo then signed the bill, adding New York to 12 other states in providing licenses to undocumented immigrants.
As recently as a week ago, Gov. Cuomo said he did not believe the bill would pass the Senate during an interview on WAMC.
“Drivers licenses for undocumented people, if I kept them there for 10 years,” it would not pass, he said.