Freedom of Travel Impinged on by NYS Legislature

Dear Editor,

For those residing in New York State who DO NOT have a U.S. Passport, but do possess a New York State Driver’s License or ID, this is intended to bring to your attention the new “Green Light Laws”. Politicized laws imposed on New York State (NYS) Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which allows the issuing of Driver Licenses to undocumented immigrants with all rights and privileges. What has not been emphasized, those privileges now impinge on your legal freedom of travel. The law mandates, as of Dec. 16, 2019, that NYS DMV place a data blocking process on all information regarding NYS Driver licensees; information required by Federal law to be accessible to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). 

Specifically, the provision says NYS DMV “shall not disclose” any records or information to “any agency that primarily enforces immigration law”. The Federal Department of Justice weighed in on the data-blocking provision, calling it “legally suspect” and questioning whether it violates enacted federal law, which requires, as of July 2018, all state issued driver’s licenses are compliant with “Real ID”, the Federal regulations of enhanced licenses that double as proof of identity and U.S. citizenship, and specifically for facilitating international Western Hemisphere travel and Border travel in the North West Hemisphere as in the U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. 

If you have traveled only within the U.S. by plane, you have experienced the checkpoint routines using your Driver License or State issued ID with an embedded chip as a security scan. And if you have traveled to Canada or Mexico you know “it’s not crossing into, but the return trip back” that without this security check you aren’t allowed to cross back from “whence you came”.  

This is where the unwritten law of “Unintended Consequences” comes into play. Before you leave home or “contact your legislature” on this infringement”, do some check points of your own. If you have plans to go where verified security will be an issue (with or without a Passport) using transportation of ships, trains and/or airplanes, you may want to check with your service provider about the validity status of your NYS Enhanced Driver’s License due to the withholding of security verification.  

If you’re going by car and crossing borders, before you cross over, check with CBP first about your ability to return with the ID you possess. If you have a Federal Issued Passport, you may want to start carrying it, as would a foreign visitor.


Florence Alpert

Candor, N.Y.

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