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Immigrants’ Rights Groups Submit Brief Supporting “Greenlight Law” Granting Drivers Licenses for New York’s Immigrants

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 13th, 2020
CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, [email protected], 212-739-7581

Immigrants’ Rights Groups Submit Brief Supporting “Greenlight Law” Granting Drivers Licenses for New York’s Immigrants

Amicus Brief Elevates Voices of Impacted Communities in court hearing on legal challenge to the law.

New York, NY – On Wednesday, May 13, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard oral argument in a lawsuit seeking to challenge New York’s Greenlight Law, which permits undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. LatinoJustice and Arnold & Porter filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief on behalf of New York Immigration Coalition, Hispanic Federation, Rural & Migrant Ministry, and Neighbors Link Corp. that illustrates how immigrant New Yorkers across the state have greatly benefitted from this new law that went into effect in December 2019.  The brief highlights how immigrant residents have been able to take care of their families, attend church services, travel to medical appointments and attend to their families’ needs while being able to drive without fear of arrest. The LatinoJustice amici are supporting the NYS Attorney General’s defense of the Greenlight Law and protecting the rights of tens of thousands of immigrants to apply for a drivers licenses.

Prior to December 2019, undocumented immigrant New Yorkers who were stopped while driving could face arrest, and possible devastating collateral consequences including detention and even deportation. Over 750,000-plus immigrant New Yorkers are now eligible to apply for drivers licenses. LatinoJustice’s amicus brief highlights the critical importance for New York’s immigrant residents ability to obtain a drivers license to conduct their everyday daily life activities. The brief also defends the Greenlight Law’s provision on data collection confidentiality to ensure that Federal agencies do not improperly access the applicant’s information without a proper judicial warrant. Fifteen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico already provide drivers licenses for immigrants who can provide the requisite identity documents and pass the driving test.

New Yorks Greenlight Law gave immigrants an essential tool of mobility, respect, and liberty in New York. Now, we can bear witness to how deeply immigrant workers have buttressed the workforce in essential industries and services, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis,” said Jackson Chin, Senior Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been called an equalizer.  However, this virus is wreaking havoc in our Latino and Immigrant communities. In this crisis, tens of thousands of immigrants have been on the front lines, as health care workers, food processors, caregivers and truck drivers. It would be a shame to undo the Green Light Law that has allowed these essential workers to apply for driver’s licenses, giving them the opportunity to drive to work, keep medical appointments, and meet other important needs. Now, more than ever, immigrants’ rights to driver’s licenses must be upheld,” said Frankie Miranda, President, Hispanic Federation.

“The data and interviews collected for this amicus give voice to the ways that the NY Greenlight Law has positively impacted the lives of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers--from being able to shop for groceries to taking their kids to doctor’s appointments to safely travel to fulfill their duties as essential workers.  As we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that our essential immigrant workers need the mobility provided by this law more than ever. This legislation ensures that the health and security of all New Yorkers are a priority.  We are proud to lead the coalition that fought for this historic bill and thank Arnold & Porter and LatinoJustice for joining us in this effort,” said Steve Choi, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

“Rural & Migrant Ministry has witnessed the positive impact the Greenlight Law had on the families that we work with and many more people in New York State. Many of our rural families that have been historically disenfranchised and isolated are now able to mobilize. We are now seeing many families being able to protect themselves against COVID-19 because they can immediately react and drive towards a hospital or medical facility. Rural & Migrant Ministry stands in support of our rural communities and immigrants all over the state in keeping the Green Light Law in place,” said Angel Reyes Rivas, Long Island Coordinator, Rural & Migrant Ministry.

I am proud to work with LatinoJustice PRLDEF and our amicus curiae clients in order to provide valuable information to the Court about the tremendous impact the Greenlight Law had since its enactment in December on the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. That impact is still felt today, even in the midst of current events, as these individuals may also now be essential workers in addition to being caregivers for their families.  The brief provides substantial background about the everyday impact of the Greenlight Law for those now eligible to apply for a license they can take sick family members to the hospital, drive to the grocery store, and otherwise engage in their communities in ways we take for granted,” said Kathleen Reilly, Partner,  Arnold & Porter.