Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to share motor vehicle records on a case-by-case basis with federal officials was rejected Thursday by the acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
"I don't know how you compromise on public safety," Acting Director Matthew Albence said in an interview.
Albence, flanked by law enforcement and elected officials from upstate communities, visited the Rensselaer County jail in Troy to rail against the Green Light Law, a measure that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses in New York.
The law bars federal immigration enforcement officials from accessing DMV records, a provision that was included in order to prevent undocumented people from being targeted by Albence's agency.
The provision this month led the federal government to bar New Yorkers from registering and re-apply for trusted traveler programs that allow for faster passage through ports and over borders.
Albence in an interview said ICE was not planning to use the motor vehicle database as a means of finding undocumented people.
"I don't need the state of New York to do my job," he said.
But the measure, he said, put the public at risk.
"Everyday that goes by where our officers and our agents are less safe because they can't get the information they need to do their job and the people of this state are less safe because we are unable to do what we do to prevent crime and stop these criminal organizations -- it's critical," Albence said.
Cuomo last week met with President Donald Trump to resolve the dispute, offering the compromise proposal. The meeting ending without a resolution.
In New York City at an unrelated event, Cuomo slammed the agency.
"They want just undocumented people who are living peacefully, have not committed a crime, are not violent, so they can disrupt families and continue their political jihad," Cuomo said.
The press conference at the jail with law enforcement and ICE officials was met with a protest of about 75 people who chanted and demonstrated outside. At one point, the news conference was briefly halted as demonstrators banged on the exterior wall of the room.
The Green Light Law has withstood legal scrutiny, most recently from a challenge by county clerks who administer local motor vehicle offices. County clerks who have challenged the law in court have said they would turn away people they suspect being in the country illegally and prevent them from obtaining a driver's license.
"All law enforcement agencies believe in providing public safety," said Rensselaer County Sheriff Pat Russo. "They believe these issues are public safety issues and not political issues."