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undocumented immigrants

photo provided by Victor Cortez

Victor Cortez has worked on dairy farms in New York state for almost 15 years. He currently works on a farm in Wyoming County.

Right now, with the coronavirus, he says everyone’s worried.

“We’re isolated from the population, and we continue working. We haven’t stopped and we keep working,” Cortez says in Spanish. “Our worry is, if we get infected, what would happen to us? What plan is there for us?”

Daniel M. Vasta/RIT

The Green Light Law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses took effect Monday across New York state. It's the first time in 18 years, since a similar law was revoked in 2001.

In Orleans County, three people applied under the new law on its first day in effect. Farmworker Eladio Beltran was one of them. 

Beltran came to the U.S. in 2001, when he was 14 years old. He says that he learned how to drive by himself, out in the fields with a tractor, and by watching movies.

“You kind of got pushed to learn the difficult way,” Beltran says.

James Brown/WXXI News

The Green Light Law took effect on Monday in New York state. The law allows people who do not have social security numbers to apply for drivers’ licenses, which will help people who are undocumented immigrants. 

New York is now the 13th state to enact such a law. Anu Joshi with New York Immigration Coalition says it is win for immigrant New Yorkers.

Provided

Last Thursday, in Wayne County, Everardo Donoteo-Reyes was sentenced to 20 years in state prison and five years probation for the murder of his girlfriend Selena Hidalogo-Calderon and her infant son, Owen. Both Calderon and Reyes were undocumented immigrants. While their families and communy continue to grieve, soon a contested new law could help undocumented domestic violence victims get to safety.

 

The Monroe County Legislature on Tuesday night voted 17 – 10 authorizing County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to sue New York State over the new ‘Green Light Law’ which allows driver's licenses to be issued to undocumented immigrants.

Dinolfo says the county’s pending lawsuit will assert, among other claims, that the new law violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by putting citizens and non-citizens on unequal footing under the law.

The first lawsuit has been filed against New York's new law to permit undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the new law.

The lawsuit filed by Erie County Clerk Michael "Mickey" Kearns seeks court action to prevent the state from forcing county clerks who are against the new law to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Kearns. speaking a few days before the suit was filed, said he believes the New York law is unconstitutional.

New York's county clerks are meeting in Syracuse on Monday to discuss a new law that requires county departments of motor vehicles to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, some county clerks who are opposed to the law are pressing forward on a federal lawsuit.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

A leading business group has come out in favor of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, increasing the chances of the bill’s passage in the state Legislature this year.

Heather Briccetti, president of The Business Council, said reinstituting the policy of issuing New York state driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants will make the roads safer and help businesses that are seeking workers during a labor shortage.

Democrats in the State Assembly say they plan to move ahead with a bill to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in New York. But the Assembly speaker said he wants to educate people about the benefits of the measure first.

Speaker Carl Heastie said Democrats, who are in the majority in his house, have the votes to pass what’s known as the Green Light Bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a standard driver’s license.

“We are supportive of moving the driver’s licenses for all (legislation),” Heastie said.

ICE.gov

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials without a judicial warrant may no longer enter New York courthouses in order to observe or arrest immigrants, according to new rules from the Chief Administrative Judge of the New York Unified Court System.

Immigration advocates have pushed for the change for two years, after ICE began aggressively pursuing immigrants for arrest in and around state courts.

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