Kearns Files Suit Over Green Light Law

Erie County Clerk says bill forces him to break federal law

Tom Puckett
July 09, 2019 - 6:45 am

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns has filed a lawsuit against Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Tish James and DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder over the Green Light Law.

Kearns says the bill, which grants driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, "substantially facilitates illegal aliens to remain in the United States and aims to shield them from detection by immigration officials." Kearns adds the law compels county clerks like him to break the law.

"It puts many of us in an impossible situation," said Kearns. "If we implement the Green Light Law, we risk prosecution under federal statute that makes it a crime to conceal, harbor or shield from detection, an individual illegally in the United States." 

He's filing the federal lawsuit seeking a declaration as the law’s constitutionality and will also be seeking an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect prior to a final decision from the courts.

"I'm willing to take this all the way to the Supreme Court," he said. "There's no other elected official who has challenged this. I believe this violates my oath of office, I truly believe this," said Kearns. 

He made the official filing late Monday after meeting with other county clerks in Syracuse.

The law passed the Legislature and was signed into law last month.

"We weren't consulted," Kearns said. "The impact is huge. It's going to cause chaos at 52 county clerk offices across the state. We are hopeful that we can secure an injunction and there will be no issuance of  driver's licenses to illegals until there is clear direction from the court.  He added, "If the Governor tries to remove one clerk, let him try to remove 40 clerks. There will be no revenue coming into the state."

Supporters of the measure say they expected a lawsuit and carefully crafted the law to withstand a legal challenge.

Twelve states already have similar laws.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said the Green Light Law was deemed constitutional by the New York State Attorney General and will fight it in the courts.

"This is not a new concept here," she said. "It's been talked about in this state for more than a decade. During that time there's been a lot of evolution and more data that comes forward that shows it makes New York motorists safer. Right now, there are people driving without insurance on their vehicles and a higher rate of people engaged in hit-and-runs, which is not good for anyone. When everyone is properly licensed to be on the road, it's safer for New Yorkers and there's a long record of that showing the number of accidents and hit and runs have gone down in other states."

Hochul said they will look at their options on whether or not to remove Kearns if he refuses to grant undocumented immigrants a license if the law is deemed constitutional.

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