Merola delays enforcement of Green Light Law in Rensselaer County

WNYT Staff
Updated: December 16, 2019 02:57 PM
Created: December 16, 2019 11:27 AM

The green light is on for the Green Light Law. The controversial law is now in effect as of Monday morning.

It has been surrounded by controversy and a lot of push-back.

Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola says if an undocumented individual comes in to the local DMV office, his staff will direct them to the Albany district office simply because they haven't yet been properly trained to process foreign identification documents to determine if they're real.

"Any documents that come in that are foreign documents all had to go to the district office, and they had to be approved through Homeland Security," Merola said. "And now they're asking the clerks to stand at the DMV window and make a decision on foreign documents that we've never had to do. They're putting us really in a tough situation and I don't know and I don't know how we'll be able to do that."

Merola's biggest concern is that someone will come in with fraudulent documents and it might get by one of his clerks. That's why he'd like to the see the onus removed from his county employees.

"The law has passed. Let state DMV do it. If you want to do it, let them go down to state DMV and let them process it there. We're overwhelmed as it is," he said.

State Attorney General Letitia James says the Green Light Law will makes roads safer and it'll bolster the state's economy. She also believes it'll allow undocumented individuals to come of out of the shadows.

That's not the way Merola sees things.

"Out of the shadows? Just the opposite. They're trying to hide people," he said. "Because anything we process now, you're not allowed to take any copy, you're not allowed to mark anything on the application because they don't want to be able to backtrack, to look at that information."

Merola says he believes the Green Light Law has more to do with allowing undocumented immigrants to vote than allowing them to drive.

Cohoes Assemblyman John McDonald tells NewsChannel 13 he too has concerns about foreigners being able to vote, which is why he voted against the measure.

Albany Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, who voted in favor of Green Light, says she believes the voting issues has been addressed.

Meanwhile, the state DMV says they have provided document authentication devices and resource guides to both state and county DMV staff to assist them.

According to the state DMV, local officials -- including county clerks who run DMV offices -- cannot choose which laws they like and which they will disregard. If a clerk is unwilling to follow state law, the statement continues, he or she should resign their office.

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