Remarks of ICE Acting Director Matthew T. Albence
New York State Green Light Law Press Conference
Troy, New York
February 20, 2020
As prepared for delivery
Good morning, thank you for joining us.
I’m here today to discuss New York’s Green Light Law and the profound danger it poses to law enforcement and the public.
For those not aware, New York State’s Green Light Law prevents U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection from accessing all New York Department of Motor Vehicles information. This includes driver’s license information, vehicle registration information, and photographs, among other critical information essential to our law enforcement and national security missions.
At its core, the issue we are discussing today is about putting dedicated, professional law enforcement officers at ICE and CBP, sworn federal officers whose job it is to enforce the laws passed by the United States Congress – unnecessarily in harm’s way, and also making them significantly less effective at performing their critical duties to protect this country, and the people within. The state of New York has barred these two agencies – and only these two agencies – from obtaining the information we need to do our jobs, and to keep you safe – purely for political purposes.
It is unfathomable to me that information which could be used to prevent crime, or a potential terrorist attack is purposefully being withheld in New York, the same state which less than 20 years ago suffered the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
Facts are important: Seventy-percent of joint terrorism task force disruptions stem from arrests for immigration violations, yet the agency responsible for these arrests is now frozen out of New York DMV databases. This is a pre-9/11 mentality, in a post-9/11 world.
Let me be perfectly clear – preventing ICE and CBP from accessing this data is dangerous. It is dangerous to the public, and it is dangerous to our officers and agents, who are currently at greater risk of harm because they lack access to this data. In fact, short of taking our guns away, I can think of no law that would be more dangerous to our officers and agents.
To truly understand the impact of this law on DHS, it is important to understand how law enforcement regularly utilizes DMV information.
Among the most basic ways law enforcement utilizes this information is to obtain information about an individual prior to or during a vehicle stop. This includes identifying the individual operating the vehicle, checking to see if the vehicle is stolen, whether the owner of the vehicle is a violent criminal, a drug trafficker, or is a fugitive with a criminal history or outstanding warrants of arrest.
Similar checks may also be run on vehicles outside a residence or business where officers are readying to serve a search warrant, execute an arrest, or attempting to rescue a victim of ongoing criminal activity. In fact, these record checks are often essential to our agents obtaining the necessary probable cause to obtain such warrants.
These checks serve a critical purpose – they provide law enforcement with invaluable information about the situation they are about to enter, and the people with whom they are about to interact. To be clear, this information may be the difference between life and death – Not only for our officers, but for the people and communities we are sworn to protect.
Additionally, our need to access New York State’s DMV records is essential to supporting criminal investigative efforts not only in New York, but also across the country and around the world. Our ability to identify and dismantle transnational criminal organizations – whether they’re flooding our communities with killer drugs like fentanyl and meth, trafficking weapons, peddling sensitive military technology, or selling women and children into miserable lives of sexual servitude – depends on getting the right piece of information into the right hands at the right time. And often, that piece of information is as simple as a license plate, an address, or a photograph.
Preventing an ICE or CBP officer from seeing a potentially crucial link in an ongoing investigation is reckless, irresponsible, unnecessary, and downright dangerous. Yet, that is exactly what we’re facing with the Green Light Law, and the people of this great state-and this great country – need to know the adverse impact of this law. There is no reasonable public safety purpose behind this law. This law exists because politicians have chosen to place their political interests over your safety and well-being and over the safety and well-being of our law enforcement officers.
I also want you to understand the type of people we enforce the law against. There are constant false narratives about ICE making indiscriminate arrests or conducting raids. In fact, I’m sure the protesters outside are spewing the same misinformation.
However, here are the real facts… In the last fiscal year, just in the state of New York, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations made 3,764 arrests, of which 3,102 had criminal convictions or pending charges. Those included: 130 homicides, 600 sexual offenses, 450 weapons offenses, 280 robberies, 1,200 assaults, and 1,650 DUIs. These are the exact same people that local law enforcement like the outstanding professionals here with us today, arrested for criminal violations they committed in your communities, victimizing your friends, your neighbors, and your families.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations arrested 373 criminal gang members, seized nearly 6,500 pounds of narcotics, made 149 arrests of individuals who committed crimes of child exploitation, and rescued or identified 105 victims of human trafficking or child exploitation.
Without access to DMV information, successes like these will not be possible, and the people of New York will be less safe. If even one child suffers at the hands of a pedophile, or a human trafficker, and we could’ve stopped that crime with the simple sharing of basic information – the same basic information that every other law enforcement agency in this state has access to – and every other state in this nation provides to ICE and CBP – that child’s suffering, and lifelong trauma – should he or she survive – rests squarely on the shoulders of those politicians who voted for this law.
The men and women joining me today, who represent federal, state, and local law enforcement, understand the importance of this information and the danger posed by restricting access to it. These men and women have placed their lives on the line to protect the public, and they are experts in policing. And I will tell you, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies don’t always agree on everything… But I know there is not one law enforcement officer anywhere in this country who would ever want to do anything to put one of their law enforcement brothers or sisters in harm’s way, which is why you see such an expansive cross-section of the law enforcement community with us here today.
Every cop has the right to go home to their families at the end of their shift. And every citizen has the right to expect that the cops who have sworn to protect them are equipped with every tool to do just that. This law lays to waste both of these principals.
In a few minutes, I will yield the stage to them and they can tell you themselves.
They can tell you directly how they are growing more and more frustrated with politically-driven efforts to tie their hands and prevent them from doing what everyone in law enforcement is trained to do – work together, share information, and uphold public safety.
I have said it before, and it remains as true today as ever – information is the lifeblood of law enforcement. Without it, we are less effective and our ability to protect our nation and all who live here is greatly diminished.
I can’t state it anymore clearly, a policy such as this – which restricts access to vital information – is going to get ICE and CBP officers hurt, and it is going to make all of our enforcement efforts far less effective, and the end result is people of this state will be less safe and suffer more from entirely preventable criminal activity.
There are those in politics that will say this is about illegal immigration. I’m here to tell you they are wrong. We are not asking the State of New York to provide us a list of illegal aliens, or to identify which individuals in its databases are here illegally.
We don’t need the state of New York to do our job for us, nor do we want them to. Quite to the contrary – all we want – and what we need – is access to the same information we get from every other state, and up until two months ago, from New York as well. We need this information to do our jobs regardless of whether the subject of our inquiry is a United States citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or an illegal alien. We need to be able to do the same things that NYPD does, the New York State Police do, as well as the FBI, ATF, DEA, etc. and every other law enforcement agency in the State of New York does on a routine basis.
People of New York, I hope you’ll join us and call for your leaders to undo this dangerous law and put the safety of law enforcement and all Americans first.