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Nov 12, 2019 1:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

U.S. Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Aimed At Blocking Green Light Law

Nov 12, 2019 3:28 PM


A U.S. District Judge last week dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Erie County clerk attempting to block a state law from going into effect that would allow undocumented immigrants to legally obtain driver’s licenses.

The law, dubbed the Green Light Law, was passed by both houses of the State Legislature and was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in June. Its enactment means undocumented immigrants will be able to obtain a basic driver’s license in New York, because it lifts a requirement that applicants show proof of immigration status if they offer a foreign passport or driver’s license from a foreign country that identifies the person and their age.

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns filed a lawsuit in an effort to block the law from going into effect this December, claiming it would require some county officials to violate various federal immigration laws.

But U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford granted a motion from State Attorney General Letitia James’s office to dismiss the suit on November 8.

“Today’s decision reinforces our position all along — the Green Light law is legal and enforceable,” Ms. James said in a press release on Friday. “The law aims to make our roads safer, our economy stronger, and allows immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state.

“As the state’s attorney and chief law enforcement officer, I am proud to have vigorously defended this law and will continue to do so against all who oppose it,” she added.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who was a co-sponsor of the Green Light Law, said as many as 265,000 people in the state will be able to apply for a license under the law, including 51,000 on Long Island, when it goes into effect in December.

As for the court decision, he said it was “welcome, but not that significant.”

“The judge ruled Kearns did not have standing to bring the case,” Mr. Thiele said. “In short, he didn’t have a special injury from the law significant enough for him to bring a case on the merits. I expect this is not the end of litigation on this, but I expect the law to be upheld.”

Proponents of the law, like Mr. Thiele, claimed it is a safety measure, because those who are properly licensed will have obtained proper training and can purchase auto insurance.

So far, at least 12 other states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have passed similar laws.

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