NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York State Senate gave the green light to the Green Light Bill on Monday.
The measure gives undocumented immigrants the right to a driver’s license. Twelve other states already have similar laws in place.
Cheers erupted in the Senate chambers as the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act passed.
“Today’s vote helps support the promise of the American dream,” Sen. Luis Sepúlveda said.
The vote followed hours of debate, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.
“How would a county clerk know if a foreign document is real?” Sen. Daphne Jordan said.
“They’re already being trained. They’re already receiving funding … So this is nothing new to either DMV or county clerks,” Sepúlveda said.
Proponents say this bill would lower the number of uninsured people, improve safety on the road and generate nearly $84 million in government revenues over the first three years.
Its critics argue the legislation would circumvent federal law and encourage illegal immigration.
“Your bill gives a green light to fraud, danger and ultimately illegal immigrants voting,” Jordan said. “You’ll be green-lighting New York becoming a sanctuary state.”
“Undocumented immigrants should not fear, should not fear getting pulled over and being separated from their families,” Sepúlveda said.
A recent poll released by Siena College showed more than 50 percent of New Yorkers surveyed were against allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.
The bill now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said he would only sign it into law if the state Solicitor General determines there are sufficient safeguards to prevent federal authorities from accessing the DMV database.
“If we pass a bill that winds up targeting undocumented, then shame on all of us,” Cuomo said.
The state Attorney General said Monday night she has reviewed the bill and found there are safeguards to prevent that from happening.
CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reports —
Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotiakis voted against the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, saying clerks may not be able to validate the documentation immigrants provide.
“That should be something we should truly be concerned about in a post-9/11 world, that we’re about to issue driver’s licenses to individuals and not know exactly who they are,” Malliotakis said. “And then there’s the issue of should we as a state be circumventing federal law and incentivising further illegal immigration? I don’t think we should.”
“It’s not about giving someone a driver’s license who’s gonna try to get citizenship. It’s about providing someone with the opportunity to be able to drive and have transportation to serve us and our communities collectively,” Democratic Sen. Alessandra Biaggi said.
If the Green Light Bill becomes law, legislators say undocumented immigrants will have to follow the same requirements as all licensed drivers in New York, including having auto insurance.