NY Clerk Refuses to Give Illegal Immigrants Drivers' Licenses, Despite New Law
Upstate New York clerk vows to fight new law signed in by Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo
An Upstate New York clerk took his first legal step to fight a new state law that allows illegal immigrants in the country to obtain NY State drivers' licenses.
On Tuesday, Erie County Clerk Michael "Mickey" Kearns sent a letter to the Erie County Attorney's Office, seeking legal representation.
"As I understand it, this Act requires that, as an agent of the Department of Motor Vehicles, I will be compelled to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants," he wrote.
"I will not be granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants."
Kearns is requesting a legal determination from the federal court as to what his rights are as a clerk and whether he could be compelled to enforce the state law over what he views as a violation of federal law.
"I anticipate being sued in either event," Kearns wrote to County Attorney Michael Siragusa.
"As a result, I intend to file a declaratory action in the United States District Court challenging the law as applied to the Erie County Clerk, and I request your representation in this lawsuit and in supporting the Constitution and the laws of the United States."
WIVB reported that a spokesperson for the attorney said the letter had been delivered, and that he "will be reviewing the request to make a determination on any potential action."
According to Fox News, the law makes New York the 13th state to authorize driver's licenses for immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally.
“After a review of the act, I am convinced that it is inconsistent with federal law,” Kearns wrote in the letter.
“More importantly, however, complying with the act puts me and other county clerks in the untenable position of having to decide whether to uphold federal law or the newly enacted state law.
"I anticipate being sued in either event.”
Speaking with WIVB, Kearns also reportedly suggested the bill may be a violation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which would make it illegal to knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Kearns told the media outlet he hopes to get the law thrown out before it is scheduled to take effect in December, adding that he won't follow the law if it does take effect.
When asked if he is prepared to lose his position if he doesn’t comply with the law Kearns told the television station, "He [Governor Cuomo] has the power.
"However, through my research, working through my legal team, we have to be charged.
"There has to be some charges, and I get to answer those charges.
"It's almost one of those things we're preparing for. I hope it doesn't happen."
Cuomo's support for the bill appeared in doubt Monday after he voiced concerns that U.S. immigration officials could use state license information to target immigrants for deportation.
The governor asked for a legal review by the office of Attorney General Letitia James, who said she supports the bill but wouldn't speculate on the federal response.
Supporters of the bill include the state Business Council and immigrant advocates who think licenses would help immigrants get jobs.
Republican lawmakers argue that illegal immigrants shouldn't be rewarded for violating the rules.