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NY county clerks refuse to follow new law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants
Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images

NY county clerks refuse to follow new law giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants

'We're not going to reward that behavior'

New York state may have approved issuing licenses to illegal immigrants, but some county clerks are reportedly refusing to comply with the new law.

What are the details?

On Monday night, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the bill into law, which is scheduled to take effect in about 180 days.

The new law will provide illegal immigrants without a social security number to use foreign documents (such as passports) to obtain New York state driver's licenses.

Twelve other states currently permit driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

What are the clerks doing?

On Monday, Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola told WRGB-TV, "My approach is we're not going to give these licenses to illegal immigrants. People have already violated this law by breaking into this country and we view this bill as kind of waiving all that."

Merola continued, "Apparently you're breaking the law by driving illegally without a license and without insurance and we're not going to reward that behavior here in Rensselaer County."

He wasn't the only one: Erie County Clerk Michael "Mickey" Kearns insisted to the Buffalo News that he would not comply with the new law, either.

According to the News, Kearns drafted a letter to the Erie County Attorney's Office seeking official legal representation.

"As I understand it, this Act requires that, as an agent of the Department of Motor Vehicles, I will be compelled to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants," he wrote, the News reported. "I will not be granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants."

Kearns is insisting that a federal court legally determine his rights as a clerk, and whether the court could compel him to adhere to the law.

"I anticipate being sued in either event," Kearns wrote. "As a result, I intend to file a declaratory action in the United States District Court challenging the law as applied to the Erie County Clerk, and I request your representation in this lawsuit and in supporting the Constitution and the laws of the United States."

Kearns said that if a federal judge compels county clerks to follow the law, "We'll jump off that bridge when we come to it."

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