Q&A – New York’s Driver's Licenses For Illegal Immigrates & ICE

Today’s entry - Gov. Cuomo Monday night signed legislation granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, is he assisting our President’s plan for ICE deportations by creating a database?

Bottom Line: This is an interesting line of thinking. On Monday, as was noted, New York signed into law the ability for illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. This is set to commence in about six months. The law itself was generally modeled off of California’s law which passed in 2013. The California law and the new, New York law, include language about the database not being used for immigration purposes. The language specifically says that "the information obtained can’t be used as evidence of the citizenship or immigration status". Is that the end of the story and the answer to your question? No. 

While states like California and New York can craft a law to attempt to thwart federal authority, they can’t override them. Since California's law passed, there have been numerous instances in which ICE has accessed and utilized California’s DMV database to obtain and track down illegal immigrants. This would likely be the case in New York. There is a catch, however. They don’t know what they don’t know. The documented cases of California’s DMV database being used to apprehend illegal immigrants have occurred as ICE sought to locate those who’ve already been processed by the legal system and ordered for deportation. Without the information in hand, there’s really no way for ICE to easily discern illegal immigrants in the database from legal citizens. That’ll likely be the case in New York. I could see the potential for an “ICE task force” that would be dedicated to reviewing the DMV records for non-citizens. As far as I'm aware, that’s not something that’s currently being considered. Back to your original point, yes, there’s the potential for ICE to access the database and the opportunity for it to be somewhat useful for immigration enforcement. It’s a good, somewhat counter-intuitive point. 

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