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GOP bill would shield DMV workers who don't comply with NYS license law

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in 2016.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in 2016. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY — A state worker could not be fired for refusing to process a driver’s license application submitted by a person in the country illegally, under a bill unveiled Tuesday by two Long Island state legislators.

The proposal is just the latest political skirmish as New York nears the effective date for a new law permitting those in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses.

Under the bill, the state wouldn’t be able to fire a Department of Motor Vehicles employee who refused to process an application. The employee also would be able to hire an attorney to defend himself if the state tries to take any civil action against the worker.

It is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). Flanagan said it’s meant to protect “employees in the awful predicament of choosing between whether to abide by federal law or to issue a state license to an illegal immigrant.”

Palumbo, in a statement, added: "This legislation is necessary to protect our everyday workers on the front lines from the dangerous policies the Governor and the progressive Democrats have recently embraced.”

The proposal is more aspirational than likely: With Democrats controlling both the Senate and Assembly, the Flanagan-Palumbo proposal has almost no chance of becoming law.

The State Legislature approved the new license measure in June after a lengthy, heated debate in the state Senate. It was a bill that had been proposed repeatedly in Albany, but always blocked by a Republican-controlled Senate. The dynamic changed, however, when Democrats won a resounding Senate majority in last year’s elections.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the license bill into law, though expressing concerns Trump administration officials could seize an applicant’s information and use it for deportation purposes.

The law already is under legal attack by some upstate county clerks who have sued to challenge its constitutionality. The law is set to become effective in mid-December.

A pro-immigration group called the Flanagan-Palumbo bill a stunt.

“This legislation isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “But, thankfully, with Republicans in the minority, we all see this as nothing more than a play to grab headlines while stoking anti-immigrant fears. It’s schemes like this that landed them in the minority and why they’re destined to stay there."

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