New York State plans to give illegal immigrants driver’s license

24 September, 2007

In a controversial change of policy in New York State, illegal immigrants in the state will be given driver’s license.

New York State officials say that a plan to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants with valid foreign passports will enhance security by creating records of their identities. But, critics say that those records could compromise security instead.

The New York State has between 500,000 and 1 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom drive without licenses and car insurance or with fake licenses, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer said while announcing the plan on September 21, 2007.

The move will bring “people out of the shadows” into American society, Spitzer added. “They no longer need to hide and pretend they are not here. We will not become part of what is propagated on the federal level – that if we don’t admit they are here, then we can somehow not provide services. That is bad policy.”

The New York State’s shift in policy is aimed at increasing security as well as reducing insurance premiums for all New York drivers by an anticipated total of $120 million a year.

Under the new policy, immigrants – regardless of their status – will be permitted to produce a current, verifiable, foreign passport in applying for a license.

The new policy will take affect in two phases – the first in December 2007 and then in April 2008.

The policy change drew flak from some Republican lawmakers from New York. Representative Randy Kuhl (Republican-New York) said the new policy “undermines the preventive measures that protect our country from national security threats.” The 9/11 hijackers had licenses that helped them rent cars and open bank accounts, Randy Kuhl noted.

Kuhl also predicted that the new license policy would encourage people “to flood New York State, taxing its social services, schools, and hospitals.”

But Michael Balboni, head of New York’s homeland security, argued that the new system would improve security because it creates public records that law enforcement agents and others can use to ensure true identities.

Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, described the new policy as a victory for immigrants. She said immigrant New Yorkers who could not get licenses had a difficult time making it to work and getting children to school.

Similar policies have been adopted in Utah, New Mexico, and other states.




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