Governor signs law granting driving privileges to undocumented immigrants

Legislative Gazette file photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Green Light New York” law on Monday night, giving undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a New York state driver’s license.

The Senate passed the bill (S.1747-b) on June 17, five days after the Assembly passed its version (A.3675-b), and the Governor’s Office sought the legal opinion of Solicitor General Barbara Underwood and Attorney General Letitia James before Cuomo signed the bill into law late Monday night.

The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act will allow non-commercial driver’s license or learner’s permit applicants to be able to submit additional proofs of identity to be eligible for a non-federal license. It also waives the social security number requirement if the applicant signs an affidavit that they have not been issued a social security number and provides the DMV with discretion to approve additional proofs of identity and age. The law also protects the data of the applicants from unwarranted release.

“This legislation will make our roads safer, enhance the ability of law enforcement to provide public safety, raise significant revenues for our state, lower everyone’s insurance cost and most importantly treat our immigrant families with dignity and respect,” said Assembly sponsor Marcos Crespo.

The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates the new law will result in $83.9 million in new revenues over the first three years and $6.4 million in recurring revenue thereafter.

In a statement of support, the Business Council of New York State said the law is “an opportunity to increase these New Yorkers’ ability to support local employers and businesses.”

In Connecticut, where a similar policy was implemented four years ago, there have been nearly 4,000 fewer unlicensed driving convictions, and hit-and-run crashes have dropped 9 percent between 2016 and 2018.

Republican legislators have been vocal in their opposition to the legislation.

Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, issued a statement saying the new law creates a double standard for American citizens applying for a standard license. For example, a citizen with a Social Security number would have to provide it, along with verifiable ID documents, while undcocumented immigrants would not.

“Giving driver’s licenses to those here illegally sends the wrong message to honest, law-abiding citizens and those who are trying to do the right thing and have been in line for quite some time to become American citizens,” Tedisco said. “If there is one set of hoops citizens have to jump through to earn their privileges but no standards for those here illegally, what’s the point of citizenship when you can just sneak into the front of the line and take advantage of our system?

“Make no mistake, if we continue on this dangerous path, we will become the United States of Non-Citizens,” Tedisco said. “It was a bad idea when former Governor Eliot Spitzer wanted to do it and it’s a bad idea now.”