New Yorkers caught in immigration dispute
We wondered if it was possible to take a stand on the state’s “Green Light Law” without getting into a knock-down, drag-out debate about United States immigration policies.
Probably not, but we were game to try.
The “Green Light Law” passed by the New York Legislature last year allows immigrants to obtain a New York state driver’s license before they become citizens while blocking immigration agents from accessing state motor vehicle records.
Many might wonder what the original intent of the law was.
The simple answer, and the least political, is that securing a driver’s license confirms you know how to drive a car. That makes us all safer.
It is the pragmatic point of view that even those in the country illegally are working and driving card, and if they have a driver’s license they can also obtain car insurance in case of an accident.
But of course it is much more complicated than that, with some states enacting immigration policies in direct conflict to the more aggressive policies of the Trump administration.
Those against the law argue that obtaining a New York driver’s license allows unauthorized immigrants a form of legitimacy that makes it easier for them to dodge the authorities.
Others, including some county clerks around the state, claim it will make it easier for those who are not citizens to vote in elections.
It all goes to the heart of the immigration debate that we hear so much about.
Are all immigrants criminals?
Should there be a path to citizenship after coming here illegally?
Should all illegal immigrants be deported?
What about the children?
Those are all complicated questions that neither the Trump administration nor Congress has been able to answer.
And that’s not the purpose of this editorial.
What we find particularly disturbing is how the “Green Light Law” has evolved into a war between federal and state governments.
We all should find that unacceptable.
No matter what stand the New York Legislature takes on immigration, the federal government should not be in the business of punishing regular citizens because it disagrees with what laws a state passes.
That is what is happening now.
It was reported last month that the Department of Homeland Security crafted memos calling for ways to retaliate against states that would not share DMV records.
The memo discussed closing down Homeland Security offices in states, refusing to accept state identification, cutting TSA pre-check services at airports and potentially subpoenaing driver’s licenses provided to undocumented workers.
The content of this memo was reported by the online news service Buzzfeed. It is all quite juvenile.
This past week, the federal government blocked New Yorkers from enrolling in Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs that made it easier to cross borders like the one just north of us.
That’s not productive, and just causes problems for anyone trying to do business in Canada.
What is clear is that this issue goes far deeper than just making sure that immigrants have the skill to drive on our roads.
It goes to the heart of the immigration issue, which as we all know, has become an emotional touchstone.
It is obvious that President Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are playing politics on this issue at the expense of New Yorkers.
They met this week in an attempt to resolve the problem – that must have been an interesting meeting – but while it was described as productive, there was no resolution.
Before the meeting, Gov. Cuomo called the Homeland Security actions, “gratuitous and retaliatory.” Afterward, he said it was extortion.
President Trump said national security was more important than politics.
We agree with that 100 percent, but the president also mentioned the many lawsuits New York has filed against his administration need to go away.
That is not appropriate either and does sound like extortion.
This is the world we are living in and we suspect New Yorkers will continue to be caught in the middle.
We wish both of these men would just grow up.