The Niagara County Clerk left a state Supreme Court hearing Thursday with more questions than he had at the outset with regards to enforcement of the state’s Green Light Law.
With the law, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, set to go into effect Saturday, Clerk Joe Jastrzemski and the judge appeared to believe they had an agreement with the state Attorney General’s office. Jastrzemski’s staff would refer anybody applying for a license who they suspected was in the country illegally, to the state Department of Motor Vehicles until the Niagara County challenge was fully litigated.
However, during the hearing, representatives for the AG said they did not have the authority to give the clerk permission not to follow the law as written. In the interim, the county’s counsel said they’ll have to decide whether or not to ask the judge for a formal injunction and accused the state of reneging.
The judge reserved ruling on the AG’s motion to dismiss as well as an individual voters request to intervene as another plaintiff. Between now and the next hearing on January 16, 2020, the state will file a written response to the intervenor motion.
There are generally two portions to the lawsuit. Jastrzemski makes similar arguments to lawsuits out of Erie and Rensselaer counties that the state law contradicts federal law and asks clerks and their staff to help harbor people in the country illegally.
Where it refers from the other lawsuits is a focus on voter fraud. The plaintiff said because auto bureaus are required to offer voter registration to anybody who applies for a driver’s license, the real goal of Green Light is to fundamentally change NY’s election system.
The defense argued fraudulently registering is illegal and would be an option to non-citizens regardless of whether they applied for driver’s licenses. Niagara County and its board of elections are co-plaintiffs.