Immigrants and Advocates File Motion to Intervene to Defend New Driver's Licenses Legislation in Erie County vs. New York State lawsuit
The motion Presents the Experiences of Immigrant Community Members in the Fight to Defend Driver’s Licenses for All Immigrant New Yorkers
Yesterday, LatinoJustice PRLDEF along with Arnold & Porter filed a motion (link to motion here) to “Intervene as Defendants” in a case brought by Erie County Clerk on behalf of Hispanic Federation, New York Immigration Coalition, Rural and Migrant Ministry, and four Individuals who would benefit, or serve communities who would benefit from the Green Light NY Law. The “Intervenors” seek to uphold the law that allows access to driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers without regard to their immigration status. The petitioners hope to ensure that the interests of the roughly 750,000 Immigrants who could benefit from the Green Light Law are adequately represented in the court case.
For example, one petitioner has a child who was born with severe spina bifida and requires frequent visits to medical experts in Philadelphia for treatment. For nearly five months, the parent has had to transport her son to his doctor’s appointments either via a taxicab or with the help of available friends. Having a driver’s license would allow this parent to drive her son to his medical appointments without having to rely on friends or costly transportation.
The “Intervenors” are composed of both nonprofit organizations, who support many immigrant communities, as well as individuals. The individual “intervenors” come from around New York State and live in areas with limited public transit options. The individuals detailed in their papers the need to obtain a driver’s license so they can drive their children to school, attend medical appointments, attend church and fully participate in society.
“New Yorkers came together to call on Albany to pass a driver’s license bill that will allow for immigrant New Yorkers to more easily live in modern society. Today, we see a legal challenge that seeks to dismantle this bill. LatinoJustice PRLDEF as we did back in 2004-5 when new requirements for driver’s licenses was imposed by the Pataki administration are again stepping up to make sure that the community members who most need the ability to drive are not ignored or overlooked. Driver's licenses for Immigrant New Yorkers means the ability to drive without fear, anything short of that is a failure,” said Jorge Vasquez, Associate Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
"We've been fighting for years to help immigrant New Yorkers get back the right to drive that should never have been taken away from them. Now that this right has been legally restored, we're going to do everything in our power to ensure that some misguided bureaucrats on an anti-immigrant power-trip don't get to take it away again. It's the height of hypocrisy that county clerks claim they don't have the resources to process the paperwork for undocumented immigrants but they are able to freely spend taxpayer dollars on this frivolous and discriminatory lawsuit that is destined to fail," said Steven Choi, executive director, New York Immigration Coalition. “We're proud to join with the Attorney General and other advocacy groups in defending this critical legislation and remain confident that with the facts on our side, the courts will agree. Twelve states already offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and come December, despite some out-of-touch county clerks' best efforts, New York will join the list.”
“Rural & Migrant Ministry Inc., a state-wide organization working in the rural areas of New York, believes that rural New York will greatly benefit from the implementation the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act (Green Light NY). We seek to join this court case as a Defendant-Intervenor on behalf of multitudes of men and women across New York, because we know that failure to enact this Bill will continue to hinder their ability to benefit and strengthen our rural communities. Blockage of this legislation will also hinder Rural & Migrant Ministry's ability to offer services and programs that create opportunities for men, women and children, as well as strengthen the social and economic fabric of our State,” said Reverend Richard Witt, Executive Director Rural & Migrant Ministry Inc.
"Hispanic Federation works tirelessly to protect and advance the rights and interests of immigrant communities across the nation. Upon the passage of the Green Light bill, we praised New York legislators and Governor Cuomo for joining 12 other states in providing drivers licenses to the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who actively contribute to our local economies every day. Not only is this smart for our economy, but it also contributes to increased safety and security on our roads. After decades of working with and representing the interests of immigrant families, we are deeply aware of the challenges they face, and stand ready to work with them to address any concerns raised by this law. For these reasons, we are seeking intervention, to be joined as defendants alongside Governor Cuomo, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, in the lawsuit challenging the enforcement of the Green Light Bill," said Jose Calderon, President of Hispanic Federation.
“I am proud to work with LatinoJustice PRLDEF and our clients to protect the integrity of the Green Light Law. This law was a momentous move for New York and for residents of the state who will now be able to apply for licenses without fear, and we will do all that we can to defend the constitutionality of the statute and that the legislation that is upheld is the same legislation that passed Albany with protections for Immigrant communities,” said Kathleen Reilly, Partner at Arnold & Porter.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For more than 40 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout New York and beyond. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit www.latinojustice.org.
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 groups in New York State. We envision a New York state that is stronger because all people are welcome, treated fairly, and given the chance to pursue their dreams. Our mission is to unite immigrants, members, & allies so all New Yorkers can thrive. We represent the collective interests of New York's diverse immigrant communities and organizations and devise solutions to advance them; advocate for laws, policies, and programs that lead to justice and opportunity for all immigrant groups; and build the power of immigrants and the organizations that serve them to ensure their sustainability, to improve people's lives, and to strengthen our state.