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As Green Light law goes into effect, some county clerks still have questions

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WRVO News File Photo
Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus, right.

The Green Light law allows for undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in New York State, and it goes into effect Saturday. Some county clerks say their offices are not ready, and it’s been a significant challenge for them to get more information from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus continues to be an outspoken critic of the law, including how the rollout is being handled. He said this week, his office received the machines that will authenticate foreign documents and his employees have had some training. But he said there has been a rush to implement the rollout.

“Here we are at the 11th hour, they’ve thrown these one-hour webinar trainings at us and then these authentication machines with no real information, expecting us to be ready in less than a week for these transactions, which are very complicated,” Backus said.

He still has questions, he said, the DMV hasn’t answered yet. When someone comes in with a foreign document, like a birth certificate, it’s his understanding that the translation can be certified by any individual.

“And my concern there is how do I know that is an authentic translation?” Backus asked. “How do I even know it’s an accurate translation of that document? Under this law, we’re going to be issuing a standard driver’s license, which would allow that individual to board an airplane. If we’re not quite sure of what these documents are, if they are authentic, I have real concerns about that.”

Lawsuits are pending from officials in other upstate counties, trying to block the law. The U.S. Department of Justice has also gotten involved, challenging some parts. Backus said the law infringes on the federal government’s authority to oversee immigration.

“Under this law, we’re not allowed to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Backus said. “There’s certain provisions of copies were not able to make.”

Backus said he will comply with the law. His office has been receiving phone calls inquiring about the licenses, and he expects there will be customers on Monday.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.