Immigrant, Community Advocates Warn Erie County Clerk: “Don’t Be on the Wrong Side of History”

May 17th, 2018

BUFFALO, NY– Today, Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns announced he would take a preemptive stance against legislation that would expand access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers (A.10273). Clerk Kearns makes the dubious claim he can defy valid State legislation and decide not to process driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, despite the fact county clerks are required to do so as agents of the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The legislation has rapidly growing momentum, and earlier this week Senator Luis Sepúlveda introduced a same-as bill in the Senate (S.8680).

“County Clerks should not use their position to fight social progress whether it’s marriage equality for LGBTQ couples, gun safety laws, and now drivers licenses. We'll let Clerk Kearns explain to his constituents why he wants to sacrifice millions of dollars in revenue that would go straight to Erie County, while 12 other states in the union already enjoy the full road safety benefits, lower insurance rates and boosted economics of driver's licenses for all," said Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar, Manager of Member Engagement of Western New York at the New York Immigration Coalition.

Introduced by Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the Driver License Access and Privacy Act would bring in an estimated $57 million in annual state and county revenue in registration fees, sales taxes, and gas taxes; plus $26 million in one-time revenues as more people obtain licenses, buy cars, and register vehicles. Existing drivers will also enjoy a cost savings of $17 per year on their auto insurances, as more drivers sign up for policies.

“Access to a drivers licenses is an issue that cuts across lines. It is important to the college student, to the restaurant worker, to the farmworkers in western New York, to the drivers who all share one road. We are deeply outraged and troubled by the recent statements from our County clerk Mickey Kearns. Erie county advocates and directly affected people found Kerns’ remarks not only hateful, but incorrect. Expanding access to drivers licences does not violate federal law, it does however bring much needed revenue to county government and improve public safety. Mr. Kearns stated that he is looking out for the best interests of the taxpayers, if that’s so, he would support all drivers regardless of immigration status to be insured, properly licensed and duly educated on the rules of the road. Now is the time for New York to move. Western New York only stands to benefit, in every way,” said Jennifer Connor, organizer from Justice for Migrant Families WNY.