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Republican Officials Oppose "Green Light" Bill

Protesters joined a press conference held by Republican State Senator Daphne Jordan against a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to seek a driver's license
Lucas Willard
Protesters joined a press conference held by Republican State Senator Daphne Jordan against a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to seek a driver's license

Republican New York State Senator Daphne Jordan and other Capital Region Republican officials gathered in Troy today to speak out against a pair of bills in the state legislature that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

Senator Jordan of the 43rd District is taking a public stance against Senate bill S. 1747, the so-called Green Light bill, which is currently in the Senate’s transportation committee.

Sponsored by Democratic Senator Luis Sepulveda of the Bronx, the bill would allow all New York State residents regardless of immigration status to obtain a driver’s license.

A version of the bill in the Assembly is sponsored Marcos Crespo, also of New York City. Both versions of the bill have been sent to committee.

Language in the bill reads:

“The need to secure driving privileges for all residents of New York, including undocumented immigrants has been a long term effort that has reached the pinnacle of urgency. From farm labor to construction jobs, the tight labor market and lowering unemployment rates have created a lower of supply of workers to many sectors in New York's economy. Not allowing undocumented drivers to have licenses issued by DMV has had and is continuing to have a negative impact on the economy.”

Jordan, who is in her first term, says the bill is a public safety threat. Jordan, who uses the term “illegal immigrants,” says the issue is not about immigration.

“I want to be clear. This is not…NOT…about immigrants. This is about our laws, what’s legal, and protecting our law abiding citizens,” said Jordan.

Jordan was joined by Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick Russo, Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett, Assemblyman Jake Ashby, and a representative from Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo’s office.

There were also several protesters. Senator Jordan tried to quiet them as they sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” over Clerk Hayner.

“It’s made for all of us but you have to do it legally!” said Jordan.

Hayner read from a statement saying current state documentation and ID requirements for people seeking a license give DMV clerks a “layer of security.”

“Local DMV clerks simply do not have the expertise to translate or determine the authenticity of foreign documents from a multitude of foreign countries that this bill is written and will require us to accept. This bill removes a Social Security verification requirement for a person who does not wish to provide one, simply signing an affidavit as a means of proving who they are. This is simply outrageous in a day when we have rampant identify theft,” said Hayner.

Supporters of the bill, who have organized as a group called Green Light NY: Driving Together, say there is no evidence to support the claim that providing undocumented immigrants licenses will result in fraud.

Twelve states plus the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants some form of driving privilege.

The officials repeatedly said the bill was not about immigration.

Here’s Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin.

“I think what we need to work on, and what Washington and Albany should be working on, is not lessening the rules, but making a pathway to citizenship so that everyone can enjoy the American dream. That’s what we all want.  All we are saying is let’s do this legally and let’s keep our streets safe and secure,” said McLaughlin.

Senator Jordan suspects the driver’s license bill would have other effects, at a time when how to account for undocumented immigrants is the subject of national debate.  

“I also can’t help but think this bill is a backdoor effort for illegal immigrants to obtain voting privileges,” said Jordan.

And here’s McLaughlin.

“You want to know what this really all about? It’s about Democrat voters. That’s what this is about,” said McLaughlin.

The protesters called the press conference racist and xenophobic. Here’s protester Rich Ring.

“If the Ku Klux Klan came and marched through Troy, I would be there because they’d be saying untrue things that damage our community and our neighbors, and I’m here for the same reason today,” said Ring.

Such a “green light” bill is nothing new in state politics. County Clerks across New York spoke out against the proposal being supported by then-governor Elliot Spitzer in 2007 before it was abandoned.

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