EXCLUSIVE: The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is warning that New York’s controversial Green Light Law is putting lives in danger by limiting law enforcement cooperation — especially after the measure was amended to make sharing information with ICE a felony.
“Somehow the state of New York took a bad law, doubled down and made it worse by now criminalizing essential information sharing that is critical to effective law enforcement,” Acting ICE Director Matt Albence told Fox News in an interview.
NEW YORK MAKES IT FELONY FOR OFFICIALS TO SHARE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT DRIVER DATA WITH ICE
WKBW first reported that the law, which went into effect in January and primarily allows illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, was amended as part of the state’s 2020 budget and signed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April.
The original law went a step further than similar laws in other states by forbidding state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) agencies from sharing data with immigration authorities like ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). But the new amendment goes even further and makes it a class E felony for officials to share such information.
The law says that anyone who receives or has access to DMV records must certify beforehand that they will not use such records for immigration purposes or disclose them to an agency that primarily enforces immigration law. The amendment says that “violation of such certification shall be a class E felony.”
The law also states that any such person must identify any immigration official or entity that received department records or information from any such certifying person or entity. The amendment says a failure to maintain these records is also a class E felony. It’s part of a continued move by the liberal state to limit ICE’s enforcement operations.
“In New York, we’ve been frozen out now and now you can’t even share from cop to cop, so it’s incredibly dangerous,” Albence said.
Albence has been one of the most vocal critics of the law, and has warned of New York shifting to a “pre-9/11” mentality, noting that one of the main lessons from the 9/11 Commission formed after the 2001 terrorist attack was the importance of information sharing between law enforcement agencies.
“It’s certainly affected our ability to do our job as safely and effectively as we’d want to,” he said. “Information sharing is the lifeblood of law enforcement.”
Albence noted that ICE and CBP agents work in New York to not only apprehend illegal immigrants, but to stop gangs and drug smuggling and other illegal activity. Now, when agents look to make a stop, they aren’t able to get the information they need to assess how dangerous the situation they’re going into may be, and whether they are dealing with a regular driver, a gang member or worse. Furthermore, when working with police officers, those officers can’t share that information with their federal counterparts.
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“It sends a very dangerous message and the message it sends is the politicians in the state of New York are more concerned about illegal aliens having driver’s licenses than the law enforcement that are putting their lives on the line every single day to keep their communities safe from being able to do their jobs as effectively as possible,” Albence said.
Democrats and immigrant rights groups have repeatedly praised the Green Light Law, saying it helps unite communities and makes roads safer by making sure all drivers have licenses.
“It’s a public safety issue. So even if you’re not in full compliance with the immigration laws, you can get a driver’s license if you take the test and if you pass the test, because we want to make sure if you are driving, you know what you are doing,” Cuomo said earlier this year.
Albence, however, brushed off that claim.
“Public safety is giving your law enforcement officers that work in your state that keep your communities safe every single tool they need to do their job safely and effectively,” Albence said, “and this does the exact opposite of that.”
It’s one of a number pro-illegal immigrant measures by the state of New York that has law enforcement and the Trump administration concerned. The administration, and ICE in particular, have also flagged “sanctuary” laws in places like New York City that further limit law enforcement cooperation with ICE, and have seen criminals released onto the streets instead of deported.
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While the state of New York has taken a strong stance on the alleged rights of illegal immigrants, Albence instead raised the question of what was being done to protect the rights of law enforcement officers who were now having their information limited.
“They have a right to go home safe at the end of the day after they’ve served their communities and their country,” he said.