A New York driverís license is indeed a privilege and responsibility that should only be granted to legal New York residents. It is Civics 101 that those individuals who are in our state legally ought to be entitled to all the rights and privileges therein. At the same time, we should not reward those who come to our shores illegally or use subterfuge to gain important identification documents.
This is even more important in the post 9/11 world we live in. That is why I was stunned to learn that ten days after the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, Governor Spitzer decided that New York should roll back the safeguards put into place in 2002 to protect our citizens by issuing driverís licenses to illegal aliens.
This disturbing policy shift is potentially a passport for terror. According to the National Immigration Law Center, seven of the 9/11 hijackers used fraudulent means to acquire legitimate identifications in Virginia. In fact, the terrorists paid illegal aliens to help them obtain valid IDs by making false statements of residency. This allowed them to move about our country freely and to rent vehicles and board aircraft used in the plot against us.
We cannot make the mistake of giving terrorists a driverís license, which they can use to obtain material and gain the access they need to commit acts of terror. The governorís ill-advised plan presents a clear and present danger to the safety and security of our state and nation.
This policy creates a dangerous loophole in state DMV regulations, allowing illegal aliens and potential terrorists the opportunity to apply for a state driverís license without regard to their citizenship status.
The Federal Real ID Act and the proposed federal regulations to implement it require states to meet certain minimum-security standards in order for state driverís licenses to be acceptable forms of identification. Requirements include that an applicant produce evidence of a valid Social Security number or proof of ineligibility. The only foreign documentation that would be accepted would be a foreign passport with a valid, current US Visa. The federal standards were developed to protect against identity fraud and to protect our national security.
If we follow the governorís unwise plan, New York driverís licenses will no longer be accepted at our nationís borders or airports as of May 11, 2008. This is wrong for New York and wrong for our national security.
Those of us who live on the Canadian Border share many cultural and economic opportunities with our Canadian neighbors. We have worked hard to find an alternative to the burdensome passport requirements.
The governorís policy shift jeopardizes the state's chances with the Department of Homeland Security for using enhanced driver's licenses instead of more-expensive passports to cross back and forth into Canada. This has significant economic implications to our state and particularly to the North Country economy.
It does nothing to improve the rate of insured automobiles registered with the DMV since, in order to register a car, one must show proof of insurance.
The plan offers no safeguards to prevent the voter fraud that would ensue if illegal aliens registered to vote under the motor voter law.
It also would make New York a safe haven for illegal aliens and further burden taxpayers who are forced to foot the bill to provide more state and local government services.
Spitzerís plan ignores over 230 years of the rule of law when it comes to immigration. We are the land of opportunity and that is a wonderful thing. We should continue to welcome new people to our great country, but it should be done in a lawful way and any change in the licensing policy should conform to the Federal Real ID Act that requires states to comply within just a few short months.
I will be supporting legislation to prevent this policy change from happening and will call on Speaker Silver to put this urgent national security matter at the top of our agenda when the Assembly reconvenes in October. That is why we need to let all 150 elected Assembly members have their voices heard.
This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of public safety and affects all New Yorkers. It is why some county clerks, who run local DMV offices across the state, are saying they will not enforce the governorís reckless plan.
If it is a privilege to have a driverís license, then the state must exercise this responsibility with great care and judgment. The fairness and integrity of our legal system, not to mention the safety of all New Yorkers, is at stake.