The police departments and sheriff's offices can have access restored if they certify the records they access won't be turned over to federal immigration agencies
NEW YORK — Nearly 60 police departments and sheriff’s offices in New York state don’t have access to important records from the state Department of Motor Vehicles because they haven’t agreed the records won’t be turned over to federal immigration, state officials said.
The interruption in the flow of the records — including photos used for identification and photo arrays — comes in response to a newly passed state Green Light Law, which allows people who came to the United States illegally to get driver’s licenses.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 59 agencies hadn’t certified that they would honor the agreement, according to officials at the state Department of Criminal Justice Services and the DMV.
Those agencies missed the Jan. 11 deadline to sign the agreement, though they can still have their access restored if they agree to not share the records, officials said.
The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office signed the agreement, according to spokesman Sgt. Jon Seeber. The office uses DMV photos primarily for criminal cases and photo arrays, he said. Syracuse police did not respond to questions about whether the department signed the agreement.
The law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June, allows state residents who entered the U.S. illegally to obtain a driver’s license without a Social Security number beginning Dec. 14. The law states that the information those residents hand over to the state for the driver’s license shall not be used by the federal government as a means to identify or deport them.
Local police agencies have access to the DMV database, though local agencies cannot tell based on the DMV records alone whether a license-holder came to the United States illegally, officials said.
The agreement with local police agencies is meant to ensure that they “do not disclose that information to ICE, Customs & Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services as stipulated in law,” said Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for DCJS.
The existence of the agreement was first reported by CNHI News Service, which reported Tuesday morning that 78 agencies had not signed the agreement. By Tuesday afternoon, the number fell to 59, state officials said.
Kava would not release a list of the 59 agencies that had not signed the agreement.
It’s not clear whether the police agencies are refusing the sign the agreement in protest or whether they were unaware of the requirement. The state sheriff’s association executive director told CNHI that the agreement deadline was likely “just not coming to the attention of the right person," and not ideological.