GOP NYS Senators Try To Force Vote To Repeal Green Light Law | WAMC

GOP NYS Senators Try To Force Vote To Repeal Green Light Law

Feb 25, 2020

New York state Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan speaks Feb. 25, 2020.
Credit Karen DeWitt

Senate Republicans on Tuesday offered an amendment to repeal New York’s Green Light Law, which permits undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. It has caused friction with the federal government because the law also blocks access to New York’s DMV database. Senate Republicans said Tuesday afternoon the amendment was rejected along party lines. 

The administration of President Trump recently blocked access to Trusted Travel Programs for New Yorkers. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, among other federal agencies, say it needs to see data from New York’s DMV to vet applicants for programs like Global Entry and NEXUS.  

State Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan, who met with border patrol officials on Monday, says the problem is even direr. The Republican says the agents told him that without the data they are hampered in their fight against terrorism. 

“One of the people there, said absolutely that people are going to get hurt,” Flanagan warned. “They also stressed that the DMV database is the absolute start point of everything. Without that they have a hand tied behind their back. They can’t do their jobs properly. They put themselves at risk. They put the public at risk." 

Flanagan says while 12 other states allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, only New York has put deep restrictions on the use of its DMV database by other law enforcement agencies.  

He says the law needs to be reversed. 

“We’re offering an amendment to repeal this law,” said Flanagan who said Democrats in state government are “undermining public safety.”  

The Green Light Law is one of the signature pieces the all-Democratic legislature approved in 2019, and many Democrats are reluctant to make changes. 

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has tried negotiating with the federal agencies to reach a compromise. He says he told federal agencies they could have driver’s license data for New Yorkers applying for the Trusted Travel Programs, or TTP. And he says he’s skeptical that they need the DMV data to fight crime, and has asked federal officials to detail their claims. 

“You have a theory by which we are interfering with criminal enforcement? Explain it to me,” Cuomo said.

The governor says he thinks the real reason the Trump administration wants access to the DMV database is to make it easier to deport undocumented immigrants.

And the governor says he’s never giving over that data.  

“First rule is, there is no access to the data base for immigration purposes,” Cuomo said. 

The New York Assembly Majority Leader, Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, in an interview with public radio and television, says she does not want to see the Green Light Law altered. She says her Western New York constituents, who frequently cross the border into Canada, are affected by the standoff. Peoples-Stokes says the real solution, though, is to get rid of the current president. 

“I don’t know how you talk to a guy who can’t always have a rational discussion,” said Peoples-Stokes. “It’s always about how do you pay somebody back for something. That may have worked in his business life, but it really doesn’t work well for government.”  

She says she hopes that we have a new president in November.