GOP: Stop Green Light bill in its tracks

Melanie Lekocevic

June 10, 2019

Originally published in Columbia-Greene Media on June 10, 2019.

ALBANY — A slate of Republican elected officials in New York has come out against the Green Light Bill.

If approved, the legislation would clear the way for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

The bill would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for standard driver’s licenses using forms of identification from their native countries.

“This session, Democrats have yielded to lawbreakers over and over again,” state Senate Republican Leader John J. Flanagan said in a statement. “We must put the brakes on this unfair proposal which ignores the overwhelming opposition of our citizens to grant this privilege to illegal immigrants. We must red-light the Green Light Bill that simply opens up our system to fraud and places a burden on county clerks and DMV employees to verify the authenticity of foreign documents as proof of identification.”

Andreas Theodosiou, of Freehold, said he supports the bill because the ability to drive is necessary, particularly in more rural communities.

“They still need to get from place to place, and in this area, (driver’s licenses) are necessary,” Theodosiou said. “I wouldn’t want to criminalize them if they were pulled over just because of their immigration status.”

State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, was one of several Republican officials opposing the bill at a recent press conference. She called the legislation “political pandering.”

“It’s a fitting name since the Democrats’ bill gives a green light to fraud, danger and, ultimately, illegal immigrants voting,” Jordan said. “Their bad bill caters to illegal immigrants, many of whom have been here illegally for years. Anyone who is in this country illegally is breaking the law, and should not be rewarded for doing so.”

But supporters of the bill say it is a safety issue. The Hudson Common Council voted for a resolution in support of the bill.

Bryan MacCormack, executive director of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, said Republican opposition to the bill is driven by an “anti-immigrant stance.” MacCormack is also the Capital Region coordinator for the Green Light campaign.

“I believe anyone who looks at this from a safety, economic or moral lens knows this is the right thing to do,” MacCormack said. “For those reasons, we have broad support from community organizations, labor unions, district attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs and businesses from across the state who are actively supporting this initiative.”

The Green Light bill is a safety issue, MacCormack said, because those applying for driver’s licenses are required to take a written exam and a road test before a license can be issued.

Joy Abrams, of Claverack, said the bill should become law because it is a matter of safety.

“This makes it safer for all drivers because if something happens, people can be traced, and they would have to have insurance. It makes total sense for the entire population because it makes everyone safer,” she said.

But Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, opposes the bill, which has not yet been voted on by the full Senate or Assembly.

“This bill is the first step on the road to giving illegals driver’s licenses and granting them the privileges of law-abiding citizens,” Tague said.

Tague said research indicates that “61% of New Yorkers oppose giving illegals driver’s licenses.”

Assemblyman Jake Ashby, R-107, said he was “alarmed” at the bill’s movement through the Assembly’s approval process. Ashby said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has indicated the bill could come up for a vote this week.

“If the so-called Green Light bill is passed, they are giving those without legal status the green light to continue to break our nation’s laws,” Ashby said.

But Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, supports the bill and said it would ensure drivers have been tested and that will improve road safety.

“The Green Light bill simply ensures every driver on our roads is properly trained to operate their vehicle and that folks can safely get to and from their jobs, which is important to our local economy,” Barrett said. “It has no impact on an individual’s immigration status or voting rights.”

In New York state, there are 752,000 undocumented immigrants over the age of 16 who are barred from obtaining driver’s licenses because of their immigration status, according to the website of the advocacy group Green Light NY.