MTA Sends Cease & Desist Letter to Erie County Over ICE Tipline Signs (News)

Erie County Clerk, Mickey Kearns, who has posted ICE tip line signs in DMV offices in Erie County in an effort to combat New York State’s Green Light Law which allows illegal immigrants to apply for and receive drivers’ licenses, was sent a cease and desist letter yesterday from the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA’s complaint was not so much about the signs themselves, although it did register its disapproval of them, but about Kearns use of the phrase “If you See Something Say Something,” which is a registered MTA trademark.

See Something Say Something
Screen grab from

According to the letter, “ Your above use of MTA’s registered trademark “If you See Something Say Something” is not authorized by MTA. This is to demand that you immediately cease and desist your unauthorized use of this trademark and, by 5 PM today, (December 10, 2019) confirm to me by reply email the actions you are taking to stop the unauthorized use of MTA’s trademark.”

The MTA, which licenses the trademarked slogan to the Department of Homeland Security and other organizations, made it clear that it would not license the slogan to Erie County under any circumstances.

“Please note that, if you should request authorization for the above use, the request would be denied. MTA registered this trademark in 2010 specifically to limit its use to communicating messages about counterterrorism programs. Your unauthorized use of the mark is in support of encouraging people to report suspected undocumented immigrants; this is both abhorrent and unrelated to counterterrorism.”

In response, Kearns issued the following statement:

I was advised by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the Green Light Law creates a significant public safety issue. The United States Department of Justice filed a brief stating the information sharing prohibitions of the Green Light Law could endanger public safety and law enforcement.

A report from the Fiscal Policy Institute projected that the MTA will receive $10.8 million in revenues from the passage of the Green Light Law. With MTA objecting to signs that seek to combat the public safety concerns of ICE and the Department of Justice, it makes me question MTA’s motivations.

After all, the 9/11 commission report cited the hijackers embedded themselves in our country by state issued drivers licenses and recommended a federal licensing scheme, now known as REAL ID, to board planes and enter federal facilities. The REAL ID provisions will not go into effect for another 10 months and this gap is concerning.

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