The battle over issuing driver’s licenses to unregistered immigrants was developing along party lines in Albany, but the fight sharpened late Monday with the release of the latest Siena College poll.
The poll shows New York state residents strongly support legalizing recreational marijuana but not the Green Light bill that would permit driver’s licenses for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally.
Here’s the angle, though. Legalized marijuana and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants are two of the biggest issues facing state lawmakers before they end the session for the year next week.
According to the Siena College survey, 55% of registered voters in the state support legalizing pot, but just 41% support the immigrant license bill. Fifty-three percent oppose allowing undocumented immigrants access to a driver’s license.
State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, is one of several Republican leaders opposing the bill. She called the legislation “political pandering.”
“It’s a fitting name since the Democrats’ bill gives a green light to fraud, danger and, ultimately, illegal immigrants voting,” Jordan said. “Their bill caters to illegal immigrants, many of whom have been here illegally for years. Anyone who is in this country illegally is breaking the law, and should not be rewarded for doing so.”
But supporters of the bill say it is a safety issue.
Bryan MacCormack, executive director of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, said Republican opposition to the bill is driven by an “anti-immigrant stance.” MacCormack is also the Capital Region coordinator for the Green Light campaign.
“I believe anyone who looks at this from a safety, economic or moral lens knows this is the right thing to do,” MacCormack said. “For those reasons, we have broad support from community organizations, labor unions, district attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs and businesses from across the state who are actively supporting this initiative.”
The Green Light bill is a safety issue, MacCormack said, because those applying for driver’s licenses are required to take a written exam and a road test before a license can be issued.
Of course there is more to the driver’s license issue than safe driving, but nobody really wants untested and unlicensed drivers on the roads. More important will be whether the Legislature votes with the polls or does the right thing and makes certain that the legalized — not decriminalized — marijuana bill and the driver’s license bill are passed before they start their summer vacation.
We don’t want to hear that old, sad sports refrain, Wait till next year.