ALBANY — A lawsuit challenging the Green Light law was dismissed by a federal judge Friday.

In a decision filed three days before the rollout of the law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe wrote the plaintiff, Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, had no capacity to bring forth the case, but would not rule on the legality of Green Light.

“It should be noted that cases like this one, where the court is constrained to dismiss without deciding the legal issues at play… does not mean in the vernacular that the ‘law is legal,’ despite what any politician may claim,” Sharpe wrote. “Indeed, the court has not and cannot pass upon that question no matter how compelling the arguments are on one side or the other.”

In July, Merola filed the lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Attorney General Letitia James and Mark Schroeder, the commissioner for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, asking for a preliminary injunction. The case is the second challenge to Green Light to be dismissed by a federal judge.

Merola’s lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the law, saying he could face federal criminal charges by enforcing it because Green Light prohibits DMVs from sharing information of undocumented immigrants. He also cited concerns about fraudulent voter registration.

The state filed a motion to dismiss Merola’s lawsuit, saying he lacked capacity and standing to challenge the law. Sharpe agreed with the former argument, labeling parts of Merola’s initial complaint as “snarky,” “half-hearted” and not “adequately explained.”

“[Merola’s] claim that ‘as the state agent offering voter registration’ he would be required ‘to violate the state Constitution proscription on voting by non-citizens,’ is steps removed and wholly speculative,” Sharpe wrote. “Green Light] requires no such conduct by Merola. For obvious reasons, it cannot be said that Merola would be forced to violate the state Constitution’s proscription against disenfranchisement in the event that such a person engages in criminal conduct.”

James and Merola did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In previous interviews with Johnson News, Merola has said he would not issue licenses to undocumented immigrants regardless of the outcome of his lawsuit.

New York is one of 13 states to adopt legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Some 265,000 undocumented immigrants, including 64,000 in the Hudson Valley and Northern and Western New York, are expected to seek driver’s licenses in the first three years of Green Light, according to the left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute. The law is expected to generate $83 million in revenue the first year, and $57 million each year after that.

Proponents of the law have argued it would improve public safety with more state-inspected vehicles and insured drivers on the road, resulting in fewer hit-and-run crashes.

Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati

(1) comment


It's interesting how people can enter this country and get a driver's license. The driver's license gives us access to many things. Buying guns for one. Free access to anywhere in the country. How many times do you have to show your driver's license? When you're going to get a job . Applying for social security number. Let's keep the list going. Why, if being able to drive in this country is a privilege, are we giving away driver's licenses to people who don't even have citizenship in this country? This is a bad bad decision. Just another example of the idiocy of the Cuomo Administration.

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