Police agencies should comply with the state’s Green Light Law, which does not make citizenship a requirement to hold a driver’s license, and forbids police in the state from giving information about undocumented immigrants to the federal agencies that want to deport them.

The issue came up this week, as CNHI revealed that state officials blocked dozens of police agencies from state motor vehicle records in a showdown over immigration policy.

State officials decided police agencies can continue to stay in the loop on motor vehicle records only if they certify the data not be shared with federal immigration enforcement agencies.

That seems to be common sense. Counties, towns, cities and villages are legally subdivisions of the state government. Police employed by those municipalities should not use state information to circumvent state law.

We were glad to hear Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin signed the pledge, even if, as he told CNHI State Reporter Joe Mahoney, he did so reluctantly.

Devlin likened the state’s arm-twisting to get police executives to sign the DMV agreement to “blackmail.” 

“Law enforcement should be able to share information between agencies — whether it’s state, local or federal — because we have had these failures in the past in trying to stop domestic terrorism,” Devlin said.

“I signed the agreement with displeasure because it would really affect our officers here if we were not to have access to this data,” he said.

It was a sensible decision. Otsego County deputies do need that information to conduct their business, but they don’t need to help the Trump administration prosecute its hard-line stance on immigration. 

Devlin hit the crux of the matter when he said the Green Light law is one of several which raised concerns among police executives, along with the state’s moves to end cash bail for many offenses and install new evidence rules for criminal prosecutions. 

“They need to put more thought into these things,” he said.

Some police executives don’t like the law but, like all of us, they are bound by it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially resisted the Green Light Law, stating fears that it would be used by federal authorities to target undocumented immigrants. It appears he was right. The requirement that the state’s information not be used in direct opposition to state law is fair.

Critics of the Green Light Law say they are worried the licenses will enable voter fraud and facilitate criminal activity, while advocates for the new system say it brings fairness to immigrants who entered this country to escape economic deprivation and make a better life for their families.

Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for state Division of Criminal Justice Services, said federal agencies can’t get access to the data unless they present a judicial order, subpoena or judicial warrant. If ICE, Customs & Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services have a legitimate need for such information, they should go to courts and get the orders they want, rather than use our local law enforcement officers as a back door to get it.

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