County Clerk Appeals Drivers’ Licenses-for-Illegals Challenge

Press Releases

January 16, 2020

IRLI shows clerk has standing to take on New York’s unlawful “Green Light Law”

WASHINGTON—New York’s newly-enacted “Green Light Law” requires county clerks to issue drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, and also prohibits them from sharing information about illegal aliens with federal authorities. But one brave clerk is fighting back: Michael Kearns, Clerk of Erie County, is suing the Governor of New York in federal court to defeat the Green Light Law. A federal district court threw his case out, not because Kearns’s claims lack merit, but because he supposedly lacks standing to bring this lawsuit.

Yesterday, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Kearns’s effort to overturn this ruling. IRLI points out what should have been obvious to the district court: Kearns has standing because the Green Light Law places him in an intolerable dilemma. Under state law, he can be removed from office if he ignores the Green Light Law. But because the Green Light Law prohibits him from sharing information about illegal aliens with federal authorities, it would open him up to federal prosecution for the crime of harboring illegal aliens.

“It is important to understand just what the Green Light Law does,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “It forces county officials to conceal illegal activity from federal law enforcement. Not only is it unconstitutional for states to hamper federal law enforcement in that way, but when it comes to illegal aliens, there happens to be a federal criminal law against concealing them. Kearns shouldn’t be forced to wait until he’s prosecuted as a criminal before he can get a court to decide whether the Green Light Law is unlawful – which it very clearly is.”

The case is Kearns v. Cuomo, No. 19-3769 (Second Circuit).

For additional information, contact:

Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org

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