New measure prevents chiefs from relaying DMV data to ICE, other immigration agencies
MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. (WHAM) -- Police agencies across New York are having to sign agreements with the state, promising not to share DMV data with federal immigration agencies like ICE and Customs and Border Protection, in order to retain access to the DMV database.
This comes weeks after the Green Light Law went into effect, allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses in New York.
"It just seems like a personal agenda got put in the middle of public safety," said Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode.
VanBrederode says the agreement had to be signed by last Saturday at 3 p.m., or else the state would shut off his agency from access to the DMV database, which his officers use daily.
Many other local police chiefs and sheriffs told 13WHAM they "reluctantly" signed the agreement so their law enforcement officers would be able to retain access to vital DMV data on the job.
VanBrederode says he didn't want to sign the document because he didn't like being told not to work with federal law enforcement agencies. However, he says he had to in order to keep his officers and constituents, safe.
"It’s all about public safety and serving my residents: the ability to run a plate and see if it’s stolen, or run a plate and see if the car is wanted, or run somebody’s license to see if they have a valid driver’s license," VanBrederode said.
Iman Abid, the director for the Genesee Valley chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, says she supports the move by the state.
"It’s just an accountability model to put into place - aside from just the legislation itself - to uphold what the law already says," said Abid.
Abid says this will help keep hidden the identities of undocumented immigrants from federal authorities, which increases their safety.
"Any information that’s willingly shared, or exposed and accessed by law enforcement agents, could lead to a detainment or deportation," Abid said. "That to me does not feel like public safety."
This order comes two weeks after controversial bail reform laws went into effect. Van Brederode says the changes have made law enforcement's jobs tougher than ever.
"At some point, this is going to come to a head. At some point, law enforcement, I think, in New York State will push back against Albany like they've never seen before. and at some point, this needs to stop," said VanBrederode.
Janine Kava, a spokesperson for NYS Criminal Justice Services, told 13WHAM:
We continue to get certified agreements; currently, there are 59 agencies that have not signed. The deadline to sign was Saturday, January 11. Agencies that do sign will have their access restored. Under the Green Light Law, no DMV data of any kind can be shared with an agency that primarily enforces immigration law, which means ICE, Customs & Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services do not have access to data unless the DMV is presented with a valid judge-signed court order, subpoena or judicial warrant. The updated agreements are meant to further ensure that other agencies with access to DMV Photo do not disclose that information to ICE, Customs & Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services as stipulated in the law. Agencies that do have access to DMV Photo have no way of knowing if a person is undocumented or not.