“Driving while Illegal” in New York
After strong opposition, New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer has backed off a plan to issue standard New York drivers licenses to illegal aliens, instead proposing three different drivers licenses, one of which would be for those who cannot prove citizenship or legal residency.
A third type of license will be available to undocumented immigrants. Spitzer has said this ID will make the state more secure by bringing those people “out of the shadows” and into American society, and will lower auto insurance rates.
The reversal has been called a stunning betrayal by immigrant and civil liberty advocates.
“What a huge political flip,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
“He’s now embracing and letting his good name be used to promote something that has been widely known in the immigrant community as one of the most anti-immigrant pieces of legislation to come out of Congress,” Ms. Hong said.
She said having separate licenses would amount to a scarlet letter for illegal immigrants. “I know I’m speaking for millions of immigrants when I say I just feel so thoroughly betrayed.”The separate licenses could also serve as an invitation for law enforcement to arrest anyone carrying one on immigration charges, said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. She added that the new proposal could send illegal immigrants further into the shadows, compelling them to drive with forged or no licenses and without insurance.
The “something” Ms. Hong refers to is the federal government’s REAL ID Act. One of the three new licenses proposed by Governor Spitzer would comply with REAL ID standards.
Under the compromise, New York will produce an “enhanced driver’s license” that will be as secure as a passport. It is intended for people who soon will need to meet such ID requirements, even for a short drive to Canada.
A second version of the license will meet new federal standards of the Real ID Act. That law is designed to make it much harder for illegal immigrants or would-be terrorists to obtain licenses.
And the third license would be for illegal aliens. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is not crazy about the idea, even though this license could not serve as a federally recognized identification.
“I don’t endorse giving licenses to people who are not here legally, but federal law does allow states to make that choice,” Chertoff said.
But Representative Peter King (R-NY), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has an interesting point.
“Besides being a massive defeat for the governor, I can’t imagine many if any illegal immigrants coming forward to get the driver’s licenses, because they’d basically be labeled as illegal,” …