New York just passed a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, after years and years of debate on the subject. But many of the county clerks are pulling a Kim Davis, refusing to follow the law and issue those licenses. This will inevitably lead to a court battle, I’m sure, but this time there’s no religious element to it, so no claim of an exception for the clerks.
A growing coalition of county clerks say they will refuse to issue licenses, and they are threatening to take their fight to court.
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Only hours after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the bill, Mr. Kearns sent a letter to the Erie County attorney, Michael Siragusa, saying he planned to fight the law in federal court…The clerks said they believe the state’s new policy, known as the Green Light Law and that is scheduled to take effect in December, may conflict with federal immigration law, which prohibits employers from hiring immigrants they know are undocumented.
“You are asking me to give a government document to somebody who is in our country breaking federal law. That is 100 percent wrong,’’ said Joseph A. Jastrzemski, the Niagara County clerk. “It compromises my oath of office to defend the Constitution.”
13 states have already adopted laws that allow licenses for undocumented immigrants and there are good reasons for that. If they can’t get a license, they can’t get insurance, so there are a lot of people out there driving without going through driver’s training and without insurance. So if they get into an accident, it pushes up rates for everyone else. Unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to get into accidents than those who have licenses, because they have to prove their competence and understanding of traffic laws before getting the license.
As for the conflict with federal law, bear in mind that the courts have ruled many times that states are not obligated to enforce federal law. That’s why sanctuary cities are allowed to do what they do. But local officials are legally obligated to follow state law. I don’t think they have much of a case here