Green Light Law takes effect Saturday

Kearns said software won't be ready until Monday for licenses

Mike Baggerman
December 13, 2019 - 3:00 am

Erie County Auto Bureau. July 25, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - The Green Light Law will take effect beginning on Saturday despite efforts to curb the law by clerks across New York State.

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns has been arguably the most vocal opponent of the law that would allow undocumented immigrants the ability to receive a driver's license in New York State. Kearns said that the software won't be ready in time when the law takes effect, meaning the licenses cannot be issued this weekend. Monday is the day when the software will be up and running.

"We have not received proper training," Kearns said while noting there was a one-hour webinar given to managers and clerks to outline how the law should be implemented at auto bureaus.

Kearns described the webinar as a "one-sided conference call" that provided no give-and-take on conversations related to the laws implementation.

The clerk said that, beginning Monday, there will be longer lines at auto bureaus. Kearns said he's heard migrant groups will target Erie County because of his stance.

Supporters of the law argue that allowing undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain a driver's license will make the roads safer because they will be required to take the safety tests and get insurance to be on the roads. Kearns said he has always supported giving people who are in the country legally, including refugees and those working in the US with visas.

"The exception is people who have come here illegally and broken the law," he said. "We don't have those documents. When you talk to law enforcement and their concern is identity theft. The proximity to the border of Canada and the possibility of criminal activity are all concerns."

When asked if he's exaggerating the impact of the law and its effect on longer lines, Kearns said there are 750,000 people in New York State who are in the country illegally and noted that a driver's license can act as a gateway document, which gives people the ability to get other documentation.

"How do we authenticate these documents?" Kearns said. "We did have a program prior to the Green Light bill where we did work with Albany and third parties to authenticate and verify documents. I'm not going to be able to do that."

Spectrum News released a report that said there were concerns from the clerk's employees about repercussions if they follow the law or Kearns' stance. Kearns called the report "erroneous" and said that he's not going to put any of his employees in harms way.

"We're still working on the process," Kearns said.

Kearns lawsuit was struck down by a federal judge but he is currently in the process of appealing the decision over his lack of standing. The appeal will be heard again on January 8.

The clerk was also criticized over issuing ICE flyers with the phrase "If you see something, say something" due to trademarks by the MTA. Kearns said Thursday that the signage will be taken down as a result of the trademark.

He has said on multiple occasions that he will not issue a license to anyone in the country illegally. Come Monday, Kearns said he will personally authenticate each application.

"In the end, I will make the decision on many of the documents," Kearns said.

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