County Clerk to New York State: Don’t Make Me a Criminal

Press Releases

August 15, 2019

IRLI agrees that giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens violates federal 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, New York, is suing the Governor of New York in federal court to defeat the Green Light Law. On August 14, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Kearns’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

Kearns asks the federal court to stop New York from implementing the Green Light Law because it places him in an intolerable position. 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.

Kearns also argues that giving drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens violates the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, because it is an obstacle to Congress’s purpose of reducing illegal alien employment. In the face of that well-known congressional objective, the sponsors of the Green Light Law loudly claimed it was needed to help illegal aliens get to work.

IRLI argues that the Green Light Law is even worse than Kearns says. Not only will it force Kearns to commit the federal crime of harboring illegal aliens, but it will also force him to commit the federal crimes of encouraging and inducing illegal aliens to remain in the United States and of trafficking illegal aliens. For that reason, the Green Light Law is unconstitutional: state laws may not make it impossible to obey federal law.

“We applaud Mr. Kearns for taking this stand,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Not only does New York’s Green Light Law turn public officials into criminals, but it also was expressly designed to help illegal aliens take jobs from Americans in New York State. Instead of breaking federal law to help illegal aliens get jobs, New York’s politicians should focus on the needs of their actual constituents: American citizens.”

The case is Kearns v. Cuomo, No. 19-cv-902-EAW (W.D.N.Y.).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org

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