Backus writes Trump for immigrant license advice

Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus

OSWEGO — Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus has contacted President Donald Trump for advice and counsel regarding a controversial new state law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week signed into law the so-called Green Light NY bill, which instructs county Department of Motor Vehicles — which Backus as clerk oversees in Oswego County —to accept foreign documents for driver’s license applications.

“I have sworn an oath to uphold both the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of New York,” wrote Backus to Trump in a letter dated Thursday and obtained by The Palladium-Times. “It is my opinion that [the Green Light NY] legislation may bring those two oaths into conflict.”

Long sought-after by immigrant’s rights advocates, Green Light NY was finally approved by the state Senate and Assembly this week. Opponents say it weakens already lax state immigration policies and has significant potential for abuse.

“Mr. President, I am not a judge and cannot determine unilaterally whether this legislation is indeed constitutional,” Backus’ letter continued. “This legislation I believe circumvents federal immigration laws and should be reviewed at the highest levels of government.”

The County Clerk’s office oversees Oswego County’s three Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) locations with a total of 21 DMV employees. According to Backus, those employees would be “required to issue driver’s licenses to ‘undocumented’ individuals who are unable to prove their legal immigration status.”

In a statement, Backus said despite Cuomo’s signature and the opinion of state Attorney General Letitia James that the law is “sound,” Backus wants more input.

“I am simply asking in this letter for an opinion from the federal government as to whether this law conflicts with my oath to uphold the laws of the United States of America,” Backus said.

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