Hawley: Ban Driver Licenses For Illegal Aliens

September 26, 2007

In response to the Governor’s announcement that he will allow illegal aliens to obtain a New York State driver license, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) stated his strong opposition to the plan and joined with Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady, Saratoga) in calling for the Assembly to vote to block this plan.

“This is outrageous! The Governor’s plan unilaterally approves suicide bombers in New York State. He might as well lay out the welcome mat for terrorists,” said Hawley. “This fiasco puts the lives of every New Yorker, even every American, at risk and completely destroys the credibility any New York citizen may have in other states or abroad.”

Governor Spitzer’s controversial plan would stipulate that a Social Security number is no longer needed to obtain a driver license from the State Department of Motor Vehicles. In lieu of a Social Security number, the Department will accept foreign passports and other forms of identification, irrespective of people’s legal standing.

The Governor’s plan is being hotly contested across the state because it allows illegal aliens and potential terrorists to obtain a driver license without regard to their citizenship or background status. It does not distinguish between aliens who are here legally and illegally; it encourages illegal immigration to continue; and, finally, while the United States does not issue a national identity document, in most instances the driver’s license serves that purpose. Driver licenses are used in cashing or writing checks, required to board airplanes or trains and to enter government buildings. The driver license serves as a de facto “national identity card” of choice. By allowing illegal aliens to easily obtain a driver license, the Governor is green lighting their “official” 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 driver licenses to be acceptable. Requirements include that an applicant produce evidence of a valid SSN 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.

The September 11 terrorist hijackers and those who helped plan the attacks had at least 35 driver licenses among them. These driver licenses undoubtedly helped the terrorists in obtaining layman’s “official” status in opening bank accounts, boarding airplanes, renting cars and trucks, and gaining pilot’s certifications.

A related national security report released just last week by Congress’ General Accounting Office confirmed that it has become increasingly easy for illegals to obtain driver’s licenses using false documents. This has heightened national security risks and further substantiates the recent Federal Trade Commission’s report which estimated 3.3 million people were victims of full-blown identity theft just last year alone.

Hawley commented, “Using illegal documents to obtain a driver license is against the law, just as coming into our country illegally is against our nation’s laws. The Governor’s plan not only encourages illegal aliens to come to our state, but also tells them that they will be rewarded for doing so. The Governor’s plan is a message that says ‘come to New York and break our laws – you will be rewarded.’”

Moreover, the Governor’s plan may also violate a section of federal law. Section 1324 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states:

“Any person who -

(i) knowing that a person is an alien, brings to or attempts to

bring to the United States in any manner whatsoever such person

at a place other than a designated port of entry or place other

than as designated by the Commissioner, regardless of whether

such alien has received prior official authorization to come to,

enter, or reside in the United States and regardless of any

future official action which may be taken with respect to such


(ii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien

has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in

violation of law, transports, or moves or attempts to transport

or move such alien within the United States by means of

transportation or otherwise, in furtherance of such violation of


(iii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an

alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in

violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection,

or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such

alien in any place, including any building or any means of


(iv) encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or

reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of

the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be

in violation of law; or

(v)(I) engages in any conspiracy to commit any of the preceding

acts, or

(II) aids or abets the commission of any of the preceding acts,

shall be punished as provided in subparagraph (B).

(B) A person who violates subparagraph (A) shall, for each alien

in respect to whom such a violation occurs -

(i) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(i) or (v)(I)

or in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(ii), (iii), or

(iv) in which the offense was done for the purpose of commercial

advantage or private financial gain, be fined under title 18,

imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both;

(ii) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(ii), (iii),

(iv), or (v)(II), be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more

than 5 years, or both;

(iii) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(i), (ii),

(iii), (iv), or (v) during and in relation to which the person

causes serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 of title

18) to, or places in jeopardy the life of, any person, be fined

under title 18, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both; and

(iv) in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(i), (ii),

(iii), (iv), or (v) resulting in the death of any person, be

punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for

life, fined under title 18, or both.”

Considering this section of law, it would certainly appear that this plan violates the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.

Hawley and Assembly Minority members are also calling on Spitzer and the state Department of Motor Vehicles to immediately release a presentation on the specifics of the Governor’s illegal alien license plan including its implementation. The presentation was previously given to the New York State Association of County Clerks on September 20, although neither the presentation nor details of the plan have been made public.

Tedisco’s office contacted the Office of the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to seek a copy of the presentation, but was told that they “were not authorized to release it.” A number of county clerks also were refused a copy of the public document when they requested it last week.

Though there is currently no legislation addressing this issue, the Assembly Minority Conference plans on introducing legislation later this week to prevent this policy change from happening.

“Details of the plan, still unseen by the Legislature or the public, put the people of our state and our nation at great danger. I am very adamant in my opposition and will do everything I can to block this plan when the Assembly reconvenes,” said Hawley. The Assembly is set to return to Albany during the week of October 22.