Spitzer Tries New Tack on Immigrant Licenses

John A. Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Thu Nov 8 19:39:10 MST 2007

         I sure hope that nobody in New York takes this lying down.

John Q.

At 06:58 PM 11/8/2007, Carl Spitzer wrote:

>October 28, 2007
>Spitzer Tries New Tack on Immigrant Licenses
>New York Times
>ALBANY, Oct. 27 — In a major shift, Gov. Eliot Spitzer is backing off
>his plan to allow illegal i! mmigrants to obtain the same kind of
>driver’s licenses as other New Yo rkers, after weeks of furor over the
>Instead, the governor said on Saturday, illegal immigrants in the state
>would be able to obtain a license that would permit them to drive but
>would not be accepted as identification to board planes or cross
>Other New Yorkers who can prove that they are legal residents of the
>United States would be eligible for federally recognized ID cards. These
>would serve as driver’s licenses and would be accepted as identification
>for a number of purposes, including boarding planes and entering federal
>The move followed a wave of criticism over the governor’s proposal, with
>many Democrats warning that Mr. Spitzer had put the state party in
>political peril. The new plan also reflects the increasingly complicated
>security requirements that have been developed by the federal government
>since the Sept. 11 attacks.
>The plan will probably do little if anything to quell the controversy
>over the issue, as people on both sides of the debate in New York
>expressed concern about it on Saturday.
>And the State Legislature, which has expressed concern about any
>extension of licenses to illegal immigrants, would probably be required
>to provide the funds for the new system, which is expected to be costly.
>And even though Mr. Spitzer announced his new plan at a news conference
>in Washington with Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of
>Homeland Security, Mr. Chertoff explicitly did not condone the move by
>New York and some other states to allow illegal immigrants to apply for
>any kind of driver’s license.
>“I don’t endorse giving licenses to people who are not here legally, but
>federal law does allow states to make that choice,” Mr. Chertoff said in
>a statement. “What we can do is insist that licenses that do not meet
>federal requirements be clearly so labeled. New York has agreed to do
>that.” Still, he said the plan in total “represents a major step forward
>for security, both for New York and for the country.”
>In an interview, the governor called the new plan “the perfect
>resolution” and said it was “not at all a shift” from what he had
>previously laid out.
>Under the plan, New Yorkers who are here legally can obtain a federally
>recognized identification card known as a Real ID. The highly secure
>identification card is expected to be phased in nationwide by 2013, but
>would be introduced in New York next year. It could be used for
>identification to board domestic flights instead of a passport.
>In addition, for frequent border crossers, like residents near the
>Canadian border, an even more secure license could be used to cross
>borders as well as board planes. This license, almost a substitute for a
>passport, would comply with the stricter requirements of a program
>called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and would require
>applicants to prove they are citizens.
>The most limited class of license, available to both citizens and
>illegal immigrants, would not require proof of legal residency. This
>final kind of license would have a lower fee than the other licenses,
>would be demarcated “not valid for federal purposes,” or some similar
>designation, and could not be used to board planes or cross borders.
>Citizens will have to apply at the Department of Motor Vehicles for the
>first two kinds of licenses, but could potentially continue to renew by
>mail for the third kind.
>“This is the perfect policy outcome,” the governor said. “You get Real
>ID, which Congress has determined is the right security measure, you get
>driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, which I believe is the
>right policy at every level, and we are getting the Western Hemisphere
>Travel Initiative.” Mr. Spitzer insisted that his plan was not a
>compromise with the federal government.
>Yet he and Mr. Chertoff both made it clear that several related issues
>had been resolved at the same time, suggesting horse-trading between
>Albany and Washington over the thorny issues of illegal aliens, national
>identification cards and easy crossing of the New York-Canadian border.
>Mr. Spitzer stressed that the agreement was the result of an “evolution”
>in talks between New York and the Department of Homeland Security over
>how to define and implement the Real ID program. Only eight states do
>not require drivers to prove legal status to obtain driver’s licenses:
>Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and
>Under Mr. Spitzer’s plan, New York is likely to become one of the first
>states to offer the new federal license; it intends to start as soon as
>the middle of next year. The governor had previously opposed granting
>two classes of driver’s license right away, but did not rule out
>eventually creating a second class of license that would comply with new
>federal Real ID regulations. By moving up the timetable for complying
>with the federal license, after two weeks of negotiations with Mr.
>Chertoff, the governor said he was getting a better outcome, and he
>emphatically denied he was shifting course.
>The Spitzer administration emphasized that there would not be a special
>class just for illegal immigrants, saying that some citizens who did not
>travel often might opt for the cheaper class of license. However,
>advocates for immigrants said the multi-tiered system of identification
>and the clear marking of one license as “not valid for federal purposes”
>would stigmatize those who carry it and could potentially make the
>police suspicious. .
>Mr. Spitzer’s move displeased some people on both sides of the debate.
>Frank Merola, the clerk in Rensselaer County who said he would refuse to
>carry out the governor’s policy, said that the latest twist was “a sign
>of desperation.”
>“No matter how he wants to cut this into different pieces, he’s still
>giving licenses to people who are here illegally,” he added.
>Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, who had supported the governor’s initial
>policy, expressed disappointment. “That’s a position that, initially,
>many of the advocates and myself opposed, a two-tier,” he said. “It’s
>separate, but certainly not equal.”
>Among other things, he and other advocates have worried that creating a
>separate class of license that illegal immigrants could obtain would
>make them fearful of doing so, lest they attract attention to their
>“I think the administration could have handled this a little bit
>better,” Mr. Espaillat added.
>But Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, chairwoman of the New York State P!
>uerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said in a statement that the new plan
>“not only satisfies his promise of fairness to the immigrant community
>but ensures that New York has a driver’s license that is nationally
>recognized as the most secure system in the country.”
>Bill Sherman, the chief of staff for the Assembly Republican leader,
>James N. Tedisco, said, “today’s flip-flop by Governor Spitzer shows his
>policy was wrong.”
>He said any plan to offer illegal immigrants a license was reason for
>concern. “We’re still asking the governor to delay any changes to the
>policy until everything is sorted out,” he said.
>The governor faced a firestorm of criticism both from Republicans and
>from within his own party since he unveiled his policy last month. More
>than a dozen county clerks, who operate Department of Motor Vehicles
>offices upstate, have refused to carry out the policy, even though they
>are considered agents of the governor’s administration.
>Last week, in Erie and Niagara Counties, the clerks — including a
>Democratic appointee of the governor’s — even said they would report
>those who could not prove residency to the local sheriff.
>James Risen contributed reporting from Washington.
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