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Niagara County clerk announces plan for implementing Green Light Law; pushing customers to Lockport

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Fri, Dec 13th 2019 05:55 pm

Niagara County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski on Friday announced his plan for implementing New York state’s new Green Light Law.

“It is no secret that I am opposed to the Green Light Law. The law and the pending litigation surrounding it puts us as county clerks in the difficult position between obeying this law or following national immigration policy,” Jastrzemski said. “But since the law goes into effect on Monday, Dec. 16, we have no choice but to comply, or face possible personal litigation.

Jastrzemski said the state had provided very little guidance and only a one-hour webinar for training, so he and his staff have developed their own plan.

“These are not normal DMV transactions,” Jastrzemski said. “We will be dealing with foreign documents that have to be authorized and verified on a system that has yet to really be tested. The state has simply left us in the lurch.”

As such, Jastrzemski has decided DMV customers will be best served if all Green Light Law transactions are processed at the Lockport DMV office, located at 111 Main St., between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Lockport DMV will be closed on Monday, Dec. 16, to properly prepare staff and provide them with the opportunity to view the Green Light Law training webinar. Preparations will also be undertaken to implement and review the action plan.

“Green Light transactions are going to take considerably more time, so we did not want to create any sort of bottleneck for others trying to carry on routine DMV business,” Jastrzemski said. “Plus, the Deputy in charge of the Lockport office has 25 years of experience running a DMV office and the staff at that location is most seasoned.”

Jastrzemski noted Lockport is the largest DMV office with the greatest number of staff. The physical layout will allow for dedicated windows to serve customers presenting Green Light Law transactions.

“We need a controlled environment, with dedicated times and the right staff as we work our way through this implementation,” he said. “Once we have a better understanding of what to expect, we can adjust this policy as needed.”

Republican New York State Sen. Rob Ortt said, “This legislation will be implemented while questions of legality, public safety and cost remain. This is just another unfunded mandate pushed upon localities in New York. With an estimated 882,000 individuals over the age of 16 living in New York without legal status, the cost of processing hundreds of thousands of new license applications will be a massive amount of money that local governments will now be responsible for covering. Polls show that this legislation is massively unpopular with law enforcement, county clerks and residents, with 61% of New Yorkers opposing it. There is no reason that Democrats should have passed this bill other than to appease political interest groups.”

Earlier this week, officials at the New York State DMV issued an alert reminding individuals that social security numbers are not required to obtain a Green Light Law license, and outlined what documents for this license would be acceptable, including items such as a foreign driver’s license or birth certificate. 

“The law and the pending litigation surrounding it puts us as county clerks in the difficult position between obeying this law or following national immigration policy,” Jastrzemski said.

On Thursday, Niagara County’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new state law was heard by New York State Supreme Court in Niagara Falls.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “The Green Light law is legal and enforceable, and two separate federal courts have now already dismissed the meritless claims of two county clerks. Beginning Monday, the law will help make our roads safer, our economy stronger, and will allow immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state. We expect all public officials to comply with the law, and, as the state’s attorney and chief law enforcement officer, I will continue to vigorously defend it.”

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