NEW YORK – On Friday the New York Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in support of the Green Light law, which allows people to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status. County clerks challenging the Green Light law have argued it violates a federal statute – referred to as “Section 1373” – that prohibits state and local governments from limiting the sharing of information related to immigration status with federal immigration authorities. In its brief, the NYCLU argues that Section 1373 is unconstitutional and thus provides no basis for challenging the Green Light law. The NYCLU’s brief also notes that there is no conflict between 1373 and the Green Light law, which regulates road safety and does not collect information about immigration status.
“Immigration enforcement is the responsibility of federal immigration authorities, not local officials,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “County clerks have no authority to make up their own rules contrary to state law, nor do they have the right to bully undocumented New Yorkers out of their right to equal participation in daily life.”
Days after the Green Light bill was signed, Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns announced his refusal to implement the law. Now, county clerks in Monroe, Rensselaer and Erie have filed federal lawsuits challenging the law’s constitutionality.
The county clerks argue that compliance with the Green Light law would place them in violation of Section 1373, however every single lower court to recently consider the issue has found this statute violates the Tenth Amendment. While the federal government has broad powers over immigration, it does not have the power to compel cooperation from state agencies.
The Green Light law allows New York State to ensure that its roads are safe for all New Yorkers.
Green Light does not require the state to collect information related to immigration status. As a result, Section 1373 does not apply in the first place.
“The federal government cannot conscript local officials into enforcement of immigration law,” said Amy Belsher, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This attempt to commandeer state resources is unconstitutional.”