Green Light Law could case problems for local DMV workers

wwny Green Light Law could case problems for local DMV workers

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Starting this month, illegal immigrants in New York could be able to get a state drivers license. It's known as the Green Light Law and it could cause problems for Jefferson County employees.

The staff at Watertown's Department of Motor Vehicles is getting ready for the start of New York's Green Light law.

Soon they could be working with illegal immigrants to put them on the path to getting a drivers license.

One of their big responsibilities will be ensuring the validity of IDs from any other country.

And that's a problem because Jefferson County Clerk Gizelle Meeks says the state hasn't prepared the department properly.

"I'm just more concerned really about the training of my staff and myself on authenticating this documentation as to whether or not it's legitimate documentation, and that the identity of the person standing in front of me is in fact, the person standing in front of me," she said.

DMV Supervisor Renee Brown says a lot of the IDs that could come in from the Green Light Law will be brand new to the staff.

And it's putting them in a high pressure situation.

“The staff is actually on the front line of this because they’re being thrown in to a situation where they’re suddenly going to have to be viewing all these documents from other countries,” she said.

To help, the state installed a machine in the Watertown DMV that verifies IDs.

"We would insert the ID into the scanner with the readable information face down on the glass. It'll ask us to hold it still. And, then it will pop up and let us know whether or not the document is a valid document," said Brown.

The DMV staff has also been given a guidebook to help authenticate foreign identification. But, if there are still questions about the validity of a foreign ID, the next steps aren't so clear.

"Even when it says failed, doesn't mean we have the obligation of failing that customer from obtaining a drives license. What we were told is just to review them more closely the documentation in front of us," said Meeks.

Another part of the Green Light Law prohibits reporting illegal immigrants to federal agencies like ICE, putting Meeks in a tough spot.

"If I don't obey the new New York state Green Light Law, I could be removed from office by Governor Cuomo. If I do not obey the federal immigration law, I could be arrested for a felony," said Meeks.

The Green Light Law is set to start in over a week - a short amount of time to get the DMV staff ready to go.

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