From the Morning Memo:

A public opinion battle is underway as proponents and opponents of drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants make their cases to the general public.

Democrats in the state Legislature would likely have the votes to pass the long-debated progressive policy, but with polling showing a majority of voters still oppose it, leaders have discussed the need to educate people before moving forward. Proponents, among other things, say the measure will make the roads safer, bring in money for the state and help immigrants, who are already here, get to work.

However, vocal critic and Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, D, has penned his own op-ed piece arguing against the “Green Light Bill.” He said a lack of public education about it is a problem.

“As a former State Assemblyman, I agree,” Kearns said. “The Legislators supporting this bill failed to educate the public on its adverse impacts.”

The county clerk focuses on a handful of arguments.

Federal rules

Kearns said the argument, drivers licenses will help undocumented immigrants get to work, ignores federal regulations that make it a crime to employ them in the first place. He believes it actually encourages violation of the federal law.

Voter registration

The clerk said other states with similar drivers license laws, specifically note the document does not establish eligibility for voter registration. He said the New York bill does not address the important issue.

Law enforcement restrictions

While proponents argue restrictions on law enforcement to search records of immigrants avoids police from “fishing” during routine traffic stops, Kearns believes those limitations are detrimental, particularly in his home county. He points out Western New York has an international border and has been the target of transnational terrorism in the past.


The clerk said, while other New Yorkers can have their licenses revoked for committing certain crimes, the act of coming into the state without documentation is a crime in itself. He also said it’s hypocritical the bill protects records of undocumented immigrants, while the DMV makes $65 million a years sharing driver data with third parties.


Kearns believes fraud is a very real consequence of this bill and said it’s passage would put undue stress on DMV staff which would have to be trained to identify documents from 195 different countries around the world.