Driving While Illegal

When you go to the home page for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, you will see two things right at the top: one, an “espanol” version of the site, and two, a “Featured Link” that invites you to “read about the new driver license application process for drivers who do not have Social Security Numbers.”

When you click on that link, you see a series of frequently asked questions, including this one:

“I do not have a NYS driver license. I cannot provide an SSN or a letter of SSN ineligibility. When can I apply for a NYS driver license?”

Here is the official response: “Check this web page frequently for more information. Do not attempt to apply for a driver license now. Follow the instructions that will be provided on this page in the future.”

The very near future, it turns out. Last week, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer says he intends to allow illegal immigrants in the state to obtain New York driver’s licenses.
Beginning early next year, the DMV will accept foreign passports and birth certificates from illegal immigrants as proofs of identification for new licenses. They will no longer need to furnish the Social Security cards or other proof that they are in this country legally.

“As long as I’m governor,” Spitzer said, “we won’t pretend they don’t exist, cut them off from society.”

And New York planning consultant John Madden said, “They’re gonna drive anyway. You might as well make them legal drivers.”

Never mind that they are in the country ILLEGALLY — the word so often ignored when discussing immigrants who don’t deserve to be here.

Spitzer’s and Madden’s statements sum up the typical “ho-hum” response to illegal immigration that got us into this mess. Having allowed the problem to grow to the point of about 12 million illegals (a wild guess), most of our leaders shrug their shoulders and claim that the problem is now too big to fix. Then they move to accommodate them in ways that defy the law, our security, and common sense.

Is there another country on earth that will let somebody walk in without identifying themselves, allow them to stay illegally, permit them to send money to their home country without paying taxes on it, pay their medical costs, feed them, and educate them and their children for free? And issue them a valid driver’s license?

When it comes to the rule of law in this country, illegal immigration seems to be exempt. There is a path to citizenship here called LEGAL immigration. Yes, it takes a long time and isn’t cheap. But it SHOULD be difficult to get in to the greatest democracy on earth. Wide open doors and borders show a breathtaking lack of self-respect for our country, its laws, and its culture. If we don’t respect ourselves, how can we expect illegal immigrants to respect us?

What makes this latest move even more appalling is that it is happening in New York: the state that bore the brunt of the death and destruction and horror of September 11. Between them, the hijackers had 35 driver’s licenses, which allowed them to rent cars and open bank accounts. Before the attacks, some of them even got pulled over for motor vehicle violations, produced fraudulent licenses, and were permitted to go on their way.

After the 9-11 attacks, it seemed to have sunk in that open access to official IDs — or to fake ones — made it easy for potential terrorists to operate freely within the United States. Many state governments then expanded driver’s license identification requirements. In 2004, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles began sending out warning letters to those with licenses whose Social Security numbers did not match federal data. According to the New York Sun, about 58% of the 600,000 New Yorkers who got letters verified their Social Security numbers. The rest — instead of being hunted down and investigated — will now be able to get a legal license by December.

In a state that suffered so much in the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history, it is inexcusable. In a country that continues to fight an existential threat from those terrorists, it is unconscionable.

We should be making it more difficult, not easier, to get legal forms of identification. Instead we’re passing out valid driver’s licenses to illegals like candy. Remember one of the most frequently asked questions after the 9-11 attacks: “How could this have happened?” None of us wants to have to ask that question again. And yet, with all of the knowledge and lessons learned from that attack, we still continue to blithely reward those who break our laws and float around in this country doing who-knows-what.

A great power ceases to be great when it cannot control its borders, when it does not monitor who comes in and who leaves and when, and when it confers rights and privileges upon those who have neither earned nor deserve them.