The county Legislature plans to file suit against the state over the bill to allow driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants

ROCHESTER — Monroe County joined the court fight to stop New York state from giving driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The Monroe County Legislature approved a plan Tuesday to file a lawsuit against the state over the "Green Light" bill. The decision came in a 17-10 vote along party lines after intense criticism from Democrats.

"Politicizing public safety is irresponsible," declared Democrat Howard Maffucci.  

"The case is flimsy, has very little chance of success, and very little legal basis for the lawsuit," echoed fellow Democrat Vince Felder.

The Driver's License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the "Green Light" bill, was signed by Gov. Cuomo in June. It allows undocumented immigrants to apply for and receive New York driver's licenses if they satisfy all the necessary requirements. Skeptics complained that the law forces county employees to issue licenses in violation of federal immigration law and unconstitutionally gives protections to those in the country illegally that it denies legal immigrants or American citizens.

"The law protects the private information of those who are here illegally," said Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo. "So, under the United States Constitution, which provides for equal protection under the law, the 14th Amendment is now being violated by the state law here in New York state."

On Monday, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns filed a lawsuit against the law in federal court but Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello, a Democrat running to unseat Republican Dinolfo, refused to.

In a statement, Bello said, "This unnecessary, duplicative lawsuit is nothing more than political grandstanding by the county executive to aid her re-election campaign."

With Bello, under whose purview driver's license issues would normally fall, declining to take action, Dinolfo turned to the legislature to authorize the county's legal department to file the lawsuit instead.

"I think it's dangerous for us to be making these kinds of arguments, particularly in a political campaign between county clerk and the county executive," said Felder.

Dinolfo insisted politics had nothing to do with it. She pointed to a similar lawsuit she began in 2007 against then-Gov. Elliot Spitzer, when he proposed licenses for undocumented immigrants.

"It's never about an election. It's about serving the people of the County of Monroe," she said. "Our community has spoken out on this and I am challenging the law on behalf of the residents of the County of Monroe."

Under the terms of the Driver's License Access and Privacy Act, undocumented immigrants could begin applying for driver's licenses in December.

During Tuesday night's meeting, the county's legal team said a draft of the lawsuit had been prepared and a county representative predicted it could be filed within the next couple of weeks.