By David Jaroslav
Powerful special interests are joining forces with like-minded politicians to push drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens in the Empire State, even though polls consistently show most New Yorkers are opposed.
On May 29, the Business Council of New York State, which represents many of the state’s biggest businesses, publicly endorsed Senate Bill (SB) 1747, nicknamed the “Green Light Bill.” The bill would require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. More specifically, it would:
- Create a category of drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens marked as “Not For Federal Purposes,” comparable to the other states that issue licenses to them, like California and Illinois;
- Forbid DMV from asking about citizenship or immigration status for the new category of licenses;
- List the identity documents illegal aliens could use to apply for licenses, including foreign passports and foreign drivers’ licenses that can be expired by up to two years;
- Make essentially all identifying information in a driving record, and any documents used to apply for a license, no longer public, requiring even law enforcement to get a court order, search warrant or subpoena to access them from DMV; and
- Require DMV to disclose to the license-holder if any of their records or information is sought by federal immigration authorities.
The open-borders groups the Center for Popular Democracy and the National Immigration Law Center estimate that the bill would make 752,000 illegal aliens in New York eligible for licenses, of which 265,000 could be expected to actually receive one within three years. Multiple recent polls indicate that between 57 and 61 percent of New York voters oppose the idea, while as few as 34 percent may actually support it.
State Senator Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo), who as a former Erie County Clerk worked closely with DMV in issuing drivers’ licenses, quickly blasted both the bill and the Business Council for endorsing it, saying in a press release that the bill subverts state law, destroys DMV’s ability to work with law enforcement to keep New York’s roads safe, and “open[s] up a ‘Pandora’s box’ of voter fraud[.]” The New York State Association of Police Chiefs, the Association of County Clerks as well as many other local elected officials outside New York City have lined up against it as well.
But not to be sidelined by big business, now big labor, too, has come out in support of the Green Light Bill. On June 3 it received the blessing of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (1199SEIU). Also known as United Healthcare Workers East, 1199SEIU is the largest healthcare workers’ union in the country, with nearly 450,000 members by its own estimate. With a budget of over $185 million and through a combination of lobbying and campaign donations, it’s become so influential and powerful in state politics over the past decade or so that it’s been called “The Union That Rules New York.”
After the Business Council endorsement, one observer noted that “the Senate appears to lack the votes to pass the license bill at this time, with some suburban and upstate lawmakers fearing a political backlash if they vote for it.” It’s even been rumored that Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), while publicly supporting the bill, had privately been telling those undecided lawmakers to kill it. But while it’s unclear so far if the union endorsement has changed any of that, it’s certainly possible.
Sen. Rob Ortt (R-Lockport) described the whole situation as “nothing more than the Albany establishment at its finest.”
New York’s legislature is scheduled to adjourn its regular session on June 19. Although the Green Light bill could be “carried over” to a future session, this latest push indicates that legislators intend to ram it through before they leave Albany.
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