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Green Light Law

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York: 'Police Week and Legislative Doublespeak'

By Billie Owens

By James P. Kennedy Jr., United States Attorney for the Western District of New York

Police Week and Legislative Doublespeak

This week marks National Police Week, a time to honor the call to duty and those who so selflessly answer that call in more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide. It is also a time to pay tribute to the 89 officers who lost their lives in 2019 in the line of duty.

On any given day, officers, deputies, and agents face the worst-of-the-worst in our society. Drug dealers filling our streets with deadly poisons, violent gang members holding neighborhoods hostage, predators stealing the innocence of our youth, and human traffickers dehumanizing vulnerable females and robbing them of their dignity. Each day, members of law enforcement deal in danger and risk their lives to safeguard and protect our community.

However, this year, the risks faced by law enforcement are even greater, as they have remained vigilant in their effort to protect us from criminals while also battling the new and invisible enemy. Sadly, as of May 7, 2020, 92 law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19 nationwide, including 29 officers right here in New York State. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

As U.S. Attorney, I feel fortunate to interact on a daily basis with all levels of law enforcement whose members prove to me, day-in and day-out, that most risk their lives each day with one primary motivation — and that motive is their love and concern for their fellow man. This year, however, COVID-19 represents but one silent threat they face. The other silent threat came from legislation that was quietly enacted as part of the New York State 2020 budget.

Shockingly and sadly, the recently enacted legislation, threatens to hold the brave men and women of law enforcement criminally liable simply for choosing to assist certain other members of law enforcement. Indeed, while our law enforcers were busy risking their lives responding to those engaging in criminal conduct — and the attention of others was directed toward the silent killer — the New York State legislature in April silently passed legislation which criminalizes the sharing of certain information between law enforcers.

Specifically, the newly enacted law makes it a felony for any law enforcer to share New York State DMV information with any fellow law enforcer whose duties include the enforcement of immigration laws. While January’s Green Light Law prohibited the sharing of such information, the April amendment takes the prohibition to a whole new level by making it an E Felony for any law enforcer to do so.

That any elected official would see wisdom in criminalizing an effort by one member of law enforcement to share information with another law enforcer — essentially legislating obstruction of law enforcement — is antithetical to the rule of law and our system of justice. The new law impedes the ability of a number of my federal law enforcement partners — including Homeland Securities Investigation (HSI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Border Patrol, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate the criminal behavior of all citizens, not just those who are illegally present in the United States.

The new law essentially pits members of law enforcement against one another.

The pandemic has taught us at least a couple of important lessons. One is that borders matter. Another is that successful responses to threats to our safety and well-being require cooperation and coordination rather than unilateral action.

As we pause to give thanks to our law enforcers this week, we recognize the difficulty of the jobs they face. The last thing that they — and the public they protect — deserve is legislation which obstructs their mission, endangers their safety by causing DHS agencies to operate blind when it comes to DMV data, and criminalizes the cooperation which has time and again proven to be so critical to the preservation of public safety.

Indeed, amidst this crisis, such legislation might rightfully cause some to question just how important the safety and well-being of the law enforcement officers and the residents of this state truly are to those who enacted it.

Hawley joins U.S. Homeland Security to highlight dangers of 'Green Light Law'

By Billie Owens


Submitted photo and press release:

Following a briefing in Albany by members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Assemblyman Steve Hawley joined lawmakers from across the state today (Feb. 24) at a press conference to highlight the dangers of the "Green Light Law," which went into effect on Jan. 1.

The law, which a recnt Siena Poll show is opposed by 48 percent of New York voters, allows illegal aliens to apply for a New York State driver’s license. 

Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders have expressed strong opposition to allowing Customs Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration authorities to access the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database to improve data sharing efforts.

Genesee County Clerk Michael T. Cianfrini recently wrote to Gov. Cuomo requesting that an amendment be passed allowing Customs Border Patrol to gain access to the DMV database. 

“As egregious and offensive this law is to law-abiding New Yorkers, we shouldn’t be making matters worse by limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities who use this information to keep the country safe,” Hawley said.

“Cooperation and data sharing between law enforcement agencies are key to tracking down and apprehending dangerous individuals and state leaders in New York are putting us all at risk by playing these political games with Washington.

"I am calling on Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders to work with us to amend this dangerous law before the public’s safety is compromised any further.”

Photo: Assemblyman Steve Hawley, left, listens as Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay speaks at the podium on the dangers of the "Green Light Law."

Ranzenhofer says governor must accept consequences of 'Green Light Law'

By Howard B. Owens

Statement from State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer:

As you may know, the federal government recently announced that it will no longer process new NEXUS applications from New York State. While this is extremely disappointing, it is not a surprise. Many senators, including myself, raised concerns with provisions of New York State’s Green Light Law, which ban the federal government from accessing DMV records.   

Despite warnings from the federal government when Green Light was being advanced, the Democrat majorities in the Senate and Assembly passed the bill. Meanwhile, the Governor dismissed warnings as nothing more than divisive, fearmongering. While the Governor continues to claim bias and point to a limited number of states that issue licenses to illegal immigrants, he fails to mention that these states do not prohibit law enforcement from accessing DMV data. Even California has agreements in place to share data with federal law enforcement. 

The federal government has sole authority and enforcement power over immigration and border security policies. If New York State decides to withhold information that federal agencies deem necessary for entry into the United States, the federal government has every right to deny travel privileges. In the end, NEXUS is a federal program and the federal government can decide who is eligible and what guidelines must be meant. If New York State chooses to pass policies that go against such guidelines, the state must accept the consequences.  

It is important to note that if you currently have NEXUS, you may not be effected immediately. However, you will not be able to renew when your current card expires. 

I am hopeful that New York State will take appropriate steps to ensure that residents again have access to NEXUS.

Implementation of 'Green Light Law' complicates DMV's job, brings protest locally

By Howard B. Owens


A change in the law, called the "Green Light Law," that would allow people in the United States without legal permission to be here to obtain a driver's licenses is getting push back in Genesee County from local residents and the County Clerk.

A small group of residents staged a protest outside County Building #1 this morning. Also this morning, County Clerk Michael Cianfrini announced a moratorium on new driver's permits because he is concerned about the lack of training his staff has received about the new law.

"We're out here because we disagree with Gov. Cuomo about the law," said Carl Hyde, or organized the protest. "We're American citizens and we have a right to freedom of speech and to say the law is wrong and we disagree with it."

He expressed concern about DMV staff locally not receiving adequate training to inspect documents from other nations and decide if documents that are presented to determine identity are legitimate documents.

That's also the worry of Cianfrini, who has been hoping the governor would delay implementation of the law or a court would intervene to at least slow down its implementation.

"As it became obvious that none of these were going to happen, I consulted with county management and our county attorney and decided that this was the best course of action in the very short term," Cianfrini said. "As the state has changed many of the policies and procedures that we use to process new applications while providing minimal training and information on exactly how to handle various situations, we were uncomfortable with completing the transactions."

He said that if clerks were presented with documents they could not verify or authenticate, or if the clerks suspected fraud, they would be prohibited from contacting law enforcement and from keeping copies of the docuemnts. At the same time, he said the county DMV has been told to handle suspicious documents "as we always have."

"I am afraid that we will either take a copy of something or report something that we shouldn’t, and find ourselves in violation of the law, or accept and process something that we shouldn’t and likewise run afoul of the law," Cianfrini said. "As we do not discriminate against anyone based upon a suspicion of country of origin or suspected legal status, we felt it necessary to implement this blanket moratorium on new permits to protect ourselves and to be in a position to handle the transactions properly when we start issuing them again.  It is my sincere hope that we will be able to begin processing new permit transactions again within the next few days."

Majority of NYS county clerks call on Cuomo and DMV to delay 'Green Light Law' until Oct. 1

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Twenty-seven County Clerks in New York State with DMV responsibilities, including all officers of the New York State Association of County Clerks (NYSACC), today (Dec. 13), call on Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder to halt implementation of the Driver License Access & Privacy Act immediately for the safety and security of all New Yorkers.

Following two hastily delivered webinars and a conference call, county clerks agree that New York State DMV failed to provide regulations that would ensure the integrity of the identification process for Standard Driver License applicants.  

The State DMV has failed to put in place safeguards to prevent someone who has a Social Security number from signing the affidavit form (NSS-1) claiming they’ve never been issued a Social Security number, enabling people to conceal their true identities. In fact, State DMV representatives admitted during their conference call with county clerks on Monday, Dec. 9, that they have no way to check or verify if a person using the affidavit form (NSS-1) in fact was never issued a Social Security number.

The State DMV has also failed to apply standards to the translation certification process, allowing anyone regardless of their age or language proficiency to certify a document’s correct translation without any proof of such. The absence of standards to the translation certification process allows for anyone regardless of their relationship to the applicant to certify the translation of documents for anyone, including minors.

Furthermore, county DMV representatives have no way of ensuring the correct translation of written documents and have been directed by State officials to simply “look for the word ‘certify’ on the document.”

Because of these lax regulations, implementation of the State law at this time would create unacceptable security risks as the loopholes allow for nefarious people to obtain a New York State Standard Driver Licenses and use it to commit bank fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud, human trafficking, and other criminal activities.

Furthermore, the federal REAL ID Act, which increases security standards for certain state-issued driver licenses and identity documents, goes into effect Oct. 1. Implementation of the State law prior to Oct. 1 would create unacceptable security risks because the lax regulations would allow for nefarious people to obtain a New York State Standard Driver License and use it to board an airplane, enter secure federal buildings, enter military bases or enter nuclear sites for malicious reasons for nine months until the REAL ID Act takes effect.  

Therefore, the undersigned county clerks strongly urge Governor Cuomo to halt the implementation of the Driver License Access & Privacy Act and to direct the State Department of Motor Vehicles to promulgate stronger regulations that would protect the security of all New Yorkers and ensure the integrity of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles licensing and identification verification procedures.

Joseph Mihalko (Broome)

Kip Cassavaw (Franklin)

Brittany Kolbe (Montgomery)

Indy Jaycox (Schoharie)

Susan Dwyer (Cayuga)

Linda Kollar (Fulton)

Joseph Jastrzemski (Niagara)

Theresa Thilbin (Schuyler)

Larry Barmore (Chautauqua)

Michael Cianfrini (Genesee)

Sandra DePerno (Oneida)

Andrea Klett (Tioga)

Elizabeth Larkin (Cortland)

Jane Zarecki (Hamilton)

Kathy Gardner (Otsego)

Stephanie Lemery (Washington)

Debra Goodrich (Delaware)

Sylvia Rowan (Herkimer)

Michael Bartolotti (Putnam)

Pamela Vogel (Warren)

Michael Kearns (Erie)

Gizelle Meeks (Jefferson)

Frank Merola (Rensselaer) 

Michael Jankowski (Wayne)

Joseph Provoncha (Essex)

Michael Keville (Madison)

Craig Hayner (Saratoga)


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