In Our Opinion...
Not So Fast, Governor Spitzer
From where we stand it didn’t appear late last month that Governor Eliot Spitzer needed to take on any more controversy for a while, in the wake of the Bruno debacle. Nevertheless, he trotted out his executive order permitting illegal immigrants to obtain New York State driver’s licenses. Eight states do not require proof
of immigration status to obtain a driver’s license. Judging by the intense response from both sides of the aisle, and at every level of state and municipal government, it would appear the Governor and his advisors, whomever they may be these days, grossly miscalculated.
Initially proponents argued that the licensing of undocumented immigrants would significantly reduce the incidents of unlicensed and uninsured drivers, while at the same time providing some handle, some identification data, on tens of thousands of individuals who currently pass under the radar in a growing underground economy. It would also bring in additional state revenue and taxes.
Opponents of the concept have come from many quarters. Joe Bruno, who initially acknowledged the logic of the order, ultimately hardened his position -surprise, surprise- and has stated that the plan “jeopardizes the safety and security of all New Yorkers and must be stopped.” Not much wiggle room there. Of course, personal animus aside, Bruno’s stance would seem in keeping with post-9/11 thinking that greater restrictions needed to be placed on the obtaining of driver’s licenses.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who can usually be counted upon to support progressive, if not liberal, legislation, was quoted ten days ago in the Post saying, “I’m really skeptical that we should be issuing driver’s licenses willy-nilly, because it then leads to lots of other problems in terms of voter registration and
other things.” Additionally, former Mayors Koch and Giuliani have expressed their opposition as well.
Those, both in government and the private sector, principly engaged in security issues are largely against the Governor’s order because driver’s licenses have been the most commonly accepted form of identification and the one document that most often leads to the obtaining of others. Still, another issue involves the current state
law that requires license applicants to present a valid Social Security number, irrespective of one’s immigration status. The question has been raised as to whether Spitzer has the authority to overrule such existing law.
While We are aware of the pros and cons on each side of the argument, We believe that there are two elements that have not been sufficiently considered. Firstly, possessing a driver’s license is not a right, but rather a privilege, one that has always been subject to a very specific set of conditions, and subject to revocation for a variety of reasons, many of which involve living a reasonably conforming, accountable, and responsible life. Entry
into a country by unlawful means, remaining there, for the most part, unaccounted for and unknown by authorities, hardly comports with those expectations.
Secondly, We believe that the Governor’s order, however well-intended it might be with regard to those, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of existing undocumented aliens living in New York State, certainly would not seem to take into account those in Mexico, and points south, not to mention other parts of the impoverished
world, contemplating illegally entering the United States. We are concerned with the impact Spitzer’s order will have upon their calculations, not only as regards whether or not to enter this country illegally, but also whether to make a bee-line for New York State where even a much-sought-after driver’s license would await their arrival as a reward for unlawful conduct. We say before any such proposition is put into play, show us that our borders have been sealed.