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Advocates sees benefits in providing licenses to undocumented immigrants

New York Immigration Coalition

With Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns speaking out against undocumented immigrants receiving driver's licenses, the issue has taken center stage. One advocate believes Kearns will "find himself on the wrong side of history."

Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar pointed out 12 states already have similar laws to the proposal currently making its way through Albany.

"They've seen an increase in public safety, so a dramatic drop in hit-and-run accidents,  as well as an increase in revenue for their state governments," said Maloney de Zaldivar.

"We have to deal with the fact that there are people who are really supporting our economy-- the dairy industry that so much depends on undocumented workers throughout Western New York-- that it is our job to be able to have them participate."

That is not how Kearns sees the issue, who says "in good conscience" he would not allow the county's auto bureaus to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants. He maintains any change in state law would be superceded by federal laws.

Maloney de Zaldivar dismissed Kearns' assertion that his declaration was not based on politics,

"I think that we have seen throughout history that county clerks  have used their positions to fight social progress whether it's marriage equality for LGBTQ couples, gun safety laws or access to diver's licenses."

While the legislation could gain approval in the Assembly, its status seems less certain in the state Senate. Some have speculated Governor Cuomo may take the matter into his own hands by issuing an executive decree.

For Maloney de Zaldivar, the law is about fairness.

"Their biggest concern is really being able to meet their basic needs. Many of them are farm workers and they're providing the food on our tables everyday in order for us to be able to eat. Yet they cannot drive themselves to the grocery store and get food for themselves."

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