DRIVER'S LICENSE FOR ILLEGAL
IMMIGRANTS IN NEW YORK STATE
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
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
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
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.