The Law May Stink, But County Clerk Barmore Should Abide By It

Once again, state lawmakers have made life difficult for local officials.

Passage of the Green Light Bill, which allows immigrants to use valid foreign documents to verify their identities when they apply for a New York state driver’s license.

Chautauqua County Clerk Larry Barmore is among the county clerks around the state who have said they won’t grant licenses to illegal immigrants. Some clerks have said they will direct illegal immigrants to state Motor Vehicles offices. The closest one to Chautauqua County is in Syracuse.

Barmore stated his position in an op-ed published in The Post-Journal in late May and reiterated that position again Tuesday.

Chief among Barmore’s concerns are that illegal immigrants could get a driver’s license with one piece of documentation verifying their identity while other county residents would still have to provide the traditional six points of identification — Social Security card, birth certificate, W-2 forms, 1099 forms or utility bills. While it’s relatively easy to determine if the traditional six points of identification are forged or legitimate, clerks have expressed issues with accepting one form of identification for immigrants that is difficult for the clerks to authenticate.

“We are going to take care of everyone that walks into the office equally,” Barmore told The Post-Journal. “We will not change how we issue licenses. … We don’t care who you are, and we’re not here to determine anyone’s status.”

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns is asking for a legal determination from a federal court to determine what his rights are as a clerk and if he can be compelled to enforce state law over what he sees as a violation of the Immigration and Reform Control Act of 1986 which prohibits employers from knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants. Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo announced Wednesday that she is preparing to take the state to court over the Green Light Bill.

We understand Barmore’s stance. After all, only two days after passing the Green Light Bill, the Assembly and Senate had to take up repealer legislation after the legislative session was supposed to have ended because the original bill needed additional clarification. Of course, those changes would prohibit the DMV from disclosing documents collected from applicants unless they are being used to process an application that meets federal standards for identification. Another change makes the Green Light Bill compliant with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. It appears the original Green Light Bill was in violation of at least one federal law, which makes it interesting to see what happens if Kearns, Dinolfo or other officials file their planned federal court cases.

As much as it stinks, if courts uphold the law and say it is constitutional, Barmore should follow it. Otherwise, the county could rack up legal fees in the event the county is sued for not following the state directive — or Barmore could eventually find himself removed by the governor.

No one wants either of those things to happen.