We don’t like political publicity stunts at public expense and we think it’s a bad idea to let people pick and choose which laws they’ll obey.
An action by the Republican minority in New York’s Legislature this week checks both those boxes.
GOP lawmakers, having lost the battle over issuing drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants, are now proposing legislation to protect motor vehicle clerks who ignore the law and refuse to process applications from those immigrants,
It’s fair to debate the issue of such licenses, but the law granting the ability was legally adopted by both houses of the legislature and signed into law by the governor. It is the law of the land. The fact that those on the losing side don’t like it does not change that.
State Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island, said the new legislation is designed to protect motor vehicles staffers who “act in good faith to follow federal law instead of abetting illegal behavior.”
Ironic, considering the fact that abetting illegal behavior is what his proposal is all about.
It’s rather sad that Flanagan continues to float the red herring that driver’s licenses will enable undocumented immigrants to vote in elections, but he did it again this week.
“It should not be up to our DMV workers to ferret out potentially fraudulent foreign documents that can open up our voting system to abuse,” he said.
We wonder if Flanagan and his GOP colleagues would be so quick to support a clerk who, in good conscience, refused to issue a handgun permit. Or a building permit. Or any of the many other documents authorized and required by law.
The whole thing smacks of the prejudice displayed by Kimberly Davis, a Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who flouted that state’s laws and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis was rightly jailed for her unlawful behavior and later voted out of office.
Perhaps the GOP stunt is most galling because it so obviously just that — a stunt.
Republicans don’t control any of the three institutions — the Assembly, the Senate or the governor’s office — needed to make this happen. If they did, the licenses would not have been approved in the first place. They’ll waste a lot of time and money — our money, and time we’re paying for — with no chance of success.
From the start, we’ve regarded the issue of licenses for undocumented immigrants less as a matter of public policy than one of politics, meant to stir up the bases on both sides. We doubt very much that such immigrants, wary of being detected and deported in the current political climate, are going to willingly enter their information in a government database, even if that government seems benign.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed just such reservations. While Cuomo called himself a supporter, he has also stated he was concerned federal officials might try to access New York motor vehicle data to round up immigrants for potential deportation.
But, granting the licenses sure makes liberals feel like they’re flexing their progressive muscles, while opposing them gives conservatives an opportunity to prove how tough they are.
We hope Republicans in the state Legislature drop this farce. The “law and order” party should not be promoting lawlessness.
While we’re hoping, we’re going to hope the Democratic majority will spend its next session working on more substantive issues than the unpopular immigrant license law.
We’re not betting on either of those things happening, though.