A change to New York’s controversial“Green Light Law”means that state officials who share illegal immigrants’ driver data with federal immigration enforcement agencies could face a felony charge.
WKBWfirst reported that the law, which went into effect in January and primarily allows illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, was amended as part of the state’s2020 budgetand signed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April.
The original law went a step further than similar laws in other states by forbidding state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) agencies fromsharing datawith immigration authorities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). But the new amendment goes even further and makes it a class E felony for officials to share the information.
The law says that anyone who receives or has access to DMV records must certify beforehand that they will not use such records for immigration purposes or disclose them to an agency that primarily enforces immigration law. The amendment says that “violation of such certification shall be a class E felony.”
The law also states that any such person must identify any immigration official or entity that received department records or information from any such certifying person or entity. The amendment says that a failure to maintain such records is also a class E felony.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York J.P. Kennedy toldWKBWthat the new amendment was “legislating obstruction.”
“We’ve seen how important communication and coordination in coming up with a response to the pandemic and sort of causing people to work in isolation it’s a recipe for disaster,” he said of not being able to share information.
Democrats and immigrant rights groups have repeatedly praised the Green Light Law, saying it helps unite communities and makes roads safer by making sure all drivers have licenses.
“It’s a public safety issue. So even if you’re not in full compliance with the immigration laws, you can get a driver’s license if you take the test and if you pass the test, because we want to make sure if you are driving, you know what you are doing,” Cuomo saidearlier this year.
But law enforcement groups and federal immigration agencies have furiouslyopposed the legislation. An association ofNew York sheriffssaid in February that it was “offensive” that they had been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements promising not to share information with their federal partners.
The lawalso requires that license holders be told within days when immigration enforcement agencies request DMV data — something law enforcement fears could alert suspects that they are being investigated.
Acting ICE Director Matthew Albencetold Fox Newsin February that the law puts the lives of officers in danger, and prevents groups like ICE and CBP from doing their jobs.
“CBP and ICE are the two entities charged by the federal government to conduct those investigations, and we are no longer able to do so in nearly as effective a fashion as a result of this Green Light Law. It makes us less effective and it puts our agents and officers in greater harm’s way,” he said.
“Basically [Cuomo] said it was more important… that illegal aliens have drivers’ licenses than it is for his state officers to actually do their jobs and go home safely at the end of the night,” he said.