PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) New York will be the 13th state to offer driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. The Green Light Bill was passed last week. Our Kelly O'Brien reports on the controversy behind the bill and why it may not be over yet.
Now, they may have the green light to do it, but that means some big changes for New York DMVs, and county clerks in the North Country say it's something they are not thrilled about.
"This issue is not new," said Rebecca Fuentes of the Workers Center of Central New York.
Undocumented immigrants are a staple on North Country farms but getting to work is often a problem.
"The needs of upstate New York are not the same as if you live in New York City, where there is a lot more public transportation," Fuentes said.
The Workers Center of Central New York has lobbied for the Green Light Bill to pass for three years. Fuentes said driving is essential to undocumented immigrants to get to work, to get to the grocery store and even to bring their kids to the doctor's office.
"We're very happy that finally, 2019 is the year this is resolved for our community," Fuentes said.
The Workers Center was elated to see the passage of the Green Light Bill-- but not everyone shared those feelings.
"It's a law, we have to do it according to our oath of office, but I don't like it, I think it's lousy," said John Zurlo, who has been the Clinton County Clerk for more than 20 years.
Zurlo said this new law means major changes for the way they run things at the DMV.
"Birth certificates that my staff are not familiar with, and we have to interpret it and give him a license?" Zurlo said.
Not only will the DMV staff need training on those foreign documents, but Zurlo is also upset by the number of documents needed to get this new driver's ID. He says a citizen needs six forms of identification, but an undocumented immigrant only needs one.
"Doesn't seem fair, doesn't seem fair at all," he said.
Zurlo said this is the feeling among many New York county clerks. And while you will see the option for the license in Clinton County, 12 clerks' offices are protesting the idea.
"They have gone on record and said they will not offer these at all in their offices," Zurlo said.
There are 180 days until those changes will take effect, so no licenses will be handed out until December.
The same rules of the road apply and car insurance is a must. This is just a driver's license; it cannot be used for any other form of travel.