Motion to oppose licenses for undocumented immigrants gets little discussion

MAYVILLE — There was very little said about a proposed motion to oppose the state Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act during a Chautauqua County Legislature Administrative Services Committee meeting.

On Monday, the committee briefly discussed the proposed motion that was requested by legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan. No one appeared to discuss the motion with the committee, which they didn’t have to vote on.

“I think it’s a great idea,” was all that was said by Martin Proctor, R-Clymer.

In the motion, it states how Larry Barmore, county clerk, has expressed his opposition of the state Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act. Barmore questions its constitutionality and believes the law circumvents federal immigration laws.

The motion also stated, “The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act is further troublesome because the identity of undocumented individuals cannot be properly verified by the state of New York if the federal government has not issued a green card or visa; local department of motor vehicles offices to not have the expertise needed to determine the authenticity of foreign birth certificates, foreign passports, consular cars, nor to verify evidence of an undocumented individuals residency in state; driver’s license can be used to obtain additional official identification documents intended only for United States citizens; and the act would eliminate the state DMV’s 2002 requirement that social security numbers be verified with the Social Security Administration to confirm an applicant’s full identity when obtaining a standard driver’s license or non-driver ID, which requirement has led to the discovery of massive amounts of fraudulent activity including identify theft, bank fraud, insurance fraud and multiple licenses to avoid loss of driving privileges or active warrants.”

In June, the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved authorizing driver’s licenses for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally. Supporters of the proposal included the Business Council of New York State, the state’s largest business organization, as well as many immigrant advocates who argued that immigrants, especially upstate, require licenses to get to work, care for their families and take care of everyday tasks.

Republican lawmakers decried the bill, which they said would reward people who had violated federal immigration laws and possibly lead to voter fraud if immigrants use the licenses to try to register to vote.

In June, Barmore announced he will not allow local DMV offices to alter the way it issues driver’s licenses. Under the law, immigrants will be allowed to use valid foreign documents – including passports — to verify their identities when applying for a driver’s license. Barmore, in an op-ed published by The Post-Journal on May 26, said allowing use of foreign passports or birth certificates as identification would place an undue burden on DMV employees by forcing them to learn dozens of new documents to determine authenticity.

“Those in support of this bill argue that it will allow undocumented workers to legally drive to their places of employment, employment that is illegal for them to have according to the Immigration Reform and Control Act,” Barmore stated. “It is a federal crime to employ undocumented workers. Lost in all this discussion about driver’s licenses is the fact that these same undocumented immigrants will now be able to register to vote at the DMV because of the motor voter law. All DMVs were recently outfitted with new equipment known as a ‘customer facing device.’ This device faces the customer and away from the DMV employee and its purpose is to allow customers applying for a license to register to vote. The screen tells the customer that they must be a U.S. citizen to register but never asks them if they are a citizen. They are asked, ‘Do you wish to register to vote’ and by pushing the ‘yes’ button they may now register to vote.”

Furthermore, Barmore said legal U.S. citizens have long had to produce six forms of identification — including a Social Security card and birth certificate — in order to obtain a license.

In July, Michael Kearns, Erie County clerk, filed a lawsuit challenging the state law authorizing driver’s licenses for immigrants who are in the country illegally. The suit seeks a court injunction blocking the law while its constitutionality is reviewed by the court. The lawsuit named Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, as defendants.

Kearns says the law forces county clerks to violate their oaths of office by granting licenses to immigrants who have broken immigration law.

If passed by the full legislature, the motion will be sent to Cuomo, Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, and others deemed necessary and proper.

In other business, the committee approved the list of properties pulled from the Chautauqua County Tax Foreclosure Auction last month by the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp. Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, said along with himself, Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, met with land bank officials the day before the auction, which was held June 15, to discuss the list of properties the land bank wanted. He said by Chagnon and himself being involved in the process it allowed the legislature to have oversight into how the land bank selects the properties it wants for rehabilitation projects and for demolition. This was the first time legislation officials did this prior to the auction and Scudder said it was a success.

The committee selected not to vote on a resolution on quit claim deeds of properties that were sold during the tax foreclosure auction. Scudder said he didn’t feel it is right to vote on the list of properties, which sold for around $935,000, without proper review. The resolution was only handed to members of the committee just prior to the meeting and was not on the original agenda. Christine Starks, D-Fredonia, agreed with Scudder. The committee voted to take no auction on the list and refer it to the Audit and Control Committee who will meet at 8:35 a.m. Thursday on the third floor of the Gerace Office Building in Mayville.