Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David today issued a letter to Solicitor General Barbara Underwood requesting a legal opinion on bill A3675-B/S1747-B, which would provide undocumented immigrants access to a driver's license.
The full text of the letter is available below:
Solicitor General Underwood:
On behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo, I write to ask for a legal opinion on bill number A3675-B/S1747-B. The bill's stated intent is to assist undocumented individuals by providing access to a driver's license. The Governor supports the policy and has since 2007. However, concerns have been raised that the bill, as drafted, will have the effect of inadvertently providing federal officials with access to State data relating to the same set of undocumented individuals, either directly or indirectly, and in doing so create significant risk of hurting the group the bill intends to help. It is not a question of the political intent of the bill; the question is the legal effect.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) maintains important personal data for individuals who obtain driver's licenses or identification cards. Under this bill, the DMV will receive additional information from undocumented individuals. In other states, the federal government has accessed state DMV data to target undocumented individuals. In short, for example, some drivers have social security numbers, obviously undocumented drivers would not. New York also has a sophisticated facial recognition system that can identify individuals and their DMV data. For New York's law to assist undocumented individuals it must successfully bar any access by the Federal Government.
Accordingly, we pose the following question to you - will the proposed law definitively prohibit the Federal Government, or any related or affiliated subdivision, from accessing - directly, indirectly or through judicial process - any database or other compilation of information or material in the possession, custody or control of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles? Obviously in responding to this question, we ask that you assume a Federal legal challenge to such a New York law should it be enacted, and take into consideration similar laws or circumstances in other states, as well as our current data sharing process with the Federal Government.
Please give us your opinion on the bill as drafted and any language changes to the bill that you think would adequately address this issue.
The goal of many stakeholders involved in this effort is to enact legislation that helps undocumented individuals, not one that hurts them. It is with this in mind that we request your opinion as soon as possible on the aforementioned matter.
Alphonso B. David
cc: Letitia James, New York State Attorney General