Governor Eliot Spitzer’s unilateral order to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens is a rash mistake. The recent outcry from elected officials, advocacy groups, and the general public through our online petition at www.nygop.org should be a stunning wake up call for Governor Spitzer to reverse his ill-advised plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
In a shocking display of heavy handedness a few weeks ago, Governor Spitzer acted unilaterally to change a critically important homeland security policy without consulting the elected representatives of the people, the county clerks who have a responsibility to implement the policy, or the general public — a disturbing trend we have seen far too often from this Governor.
New Yorkers know too well the importance of maintaining the integrity and security of our identification documents. The September 11th hijackers were able to board planes because they all had driver’s licenses or state issued identification. In the wake of this security gap, New York and states across the nation tightened regulations in order to help keep people safe.
Indeed, one of the key recommendations from the 9/11 Commission was the critical need for stricter, unified standards for the issuance of identification. It specifically mentioned driver’s licenses and noted that, “at many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.“
Governor Spitzer’s plan not only endangers our strategies for effective homeland security, it runs counter to State and Federal identification laws requiring Social Security numbers or the ability to meet certain minimum security standards in issuing driver’s licenses. Those laws were enacted to protect our national security and keep us safe, yet Governor Spitzer merely disregards them.
Curiously, one of the main reasons touted by the Governor for this plan was the questionable argument that licensing more illegal alien drivers would encourage more of them to obtain insurance and improve New York‘s sky high insurance rates. The truth is that receiving a driver’s license in no way obligates the new driver to obtain insurance.
The Governor is taking a very risky gamble that these illegal aliens, who circumvented federal law and cut ahead of immigrants who were taking the proper steps to enter the county legally, would take the additional steps and incur the additional costs to obtain insurance.
On the contrary, it seems likely that the exact opposite would happen, and the Governor’s plan would push even more uninsured motorists onto our roadways.
Additionally, concerns have been raised about the security of the state’s voter rolls. Presently, voter registration materials accompany the driver‘s license application process, however illegal aliens do not have a legal right to vote. Providing them with these materials and the prime form of identification used to resolve disputes at polling places could lead to confusion, illegally registered voters and chaos during elections and recounts.
Finally, the move would place an added burden and financial strain on local County Clerks and DMV offices. These local government offices would now be placed in the unenviable position of being responsible for reviewing international passports and the validity of foreign documents for individuals who are in our country illegally. These offices are simply not equipped, trained or financially supported to effectively conduct these critical homeland security tasks, thereby placing an unfunded mandate on localities.
Yet with all these arguments to the contrary, Governor Spitzer wants to move us backward with one unilateral move. We cannot let that happen, and we will not let that happen.
Shortly after the Governor announced his plan, I voiced my strong public opposition and launched our online petition on www.nygop.org. Countless other elected officials joined in what is now an overwhelming chorus of opposition to the plan.
Assembly Republicans held open, public and accountable hearings with a panel of experts to shed light on the shortcomings of the Governor’s plan. Senate Republicans have announced their intention to pass legislation in opposition to the plan when they return to session later this month. Both have committed to taking any legal action necessary to prevent this from becoming law.
But opposition is not confined to the right side of the aisle.
Three recent Mayors of New York City, including an Independent (Michael Bloomberg), a Republican (Rudy Giuliani) and a Democrat (Ed Koch), have all publicly voiced their opposition to the plan. Having governed New York City, they understand the important, nuanced issues of homeland security and immigration, and they know this policy will not work.
At the end of last week, New York’s association of County Clerks overwhelmingly voted for a resolution calling on Governor Spitzer to reverse this policy. Thirteen of the county clerks took the additional step of saying that they would refuse to institute the policy under any circumstances. These dedicated public servants perform a vital function within their communities, and it is simply wrong to force them to provide official documentation to people who are breaking the law by being in this country illegally.
My stance, and the stance of the other elected officials, in opposition to this policy is based on the same commonsense view held by most of the general public. A recent poll indicated that nearly sixty percent of New Yorkers oppose this policy and want to see if reversed. Stunningly, over forty percent of the Democrats in the Governor’s own party oppose the plan, and high level elected Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer and others have refused to support the plan.
Sadly, Governor Spitzer’s reaction to the public outcry in opposition to his plan has been predictable and one we have seen far too frequently since he took office at the beginning of this year. He shut out the public, elected officials and the media and made a unilateral decision behind closed doors. Then, instead of listening to the concerns of the overwhelming majority of people he was elected to serve, he responded with insults and personal attacks.
Once again, the Governor’s approach and stance are not in concert with the needs of the people of New York State. It is my sincere hope that Governor Spitzer listens to the people and reverses immediately his ill-advised plan to allow illegal aliens to obtain New York driver’s licenses.