In Our Opinion...
Driver’s License Debate Rolls On
Last week on this page We cautioned “Not So Fast, Governor Spitzer,” suggesting that perhaps in the “wake of the Bruno debacle” the Governor really didn’t need to borrow any more controversy for a while, least of all, a half-thought-out plan to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented aliens. We acknowledged that there was some merit in proponents’ arguments that such a program might significantly cut down on the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers on New York roads, and, that it would also help in getting a handle on the identity of tens of thousands of ‘illegals’ throughout the state.
Weighing the arguments on both sides of the issue that had already been lodged in the first two weeks since the proposal, We inserted two additional concerns of our own: firstly, that the possession of a driver’s license was not a right, not even for citizens, but rather a privilege, subject to compliance with a very specific set of conditions; and, secondly, that such a proposal needed to take into account not only the impact it would have on illegal aliens already living in the United States, and specifically in New York State, but also those outside of the country contemplating an illegal entry. We asked whether we really wanted to add more incentive to breaking our Immigration Laws, suggesting that perhaps the program would be better timed once the United States had made significant progress toward sealing our borders.
The New York Post, not exactly the Governor’s biggest fan, offered the notion that perhaps he came out with the proposal as a distraction from his other problems in Albany in their October 9th editorial Take a U-Turn, Eliot. One day earlier they branded it a License To Kill. Several major daily newspapers from all over the state reported county clerks up in arms over the proposal. Having a longstanding relationship with Putnam County Clerk, Republican, Dennis Sant, as well as a good working relationship with Westchester County Clerk, Democrat, Tim Idoni, We called upon each of them for their comments.
Dennis Sant, who was, in fact, the Putnam County Commissioner of Motor Vehicles for many years as he served as Deputy County Clerk, stated, “My position is that I feel pressured by the Governor to disobey the laws of
this land, and violate my oath of office. The Vehicle and Traffic Laws of New York State clearly state we will not issue licenses to persons without Social Security Cards.”
Tim Idoni told us, “In Westchester I am not an agent for the State Department of Motor Vehicles, though I do collect mortgage taxes and passport fees. Having said that, I must acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of
the debate over the issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented aliens. On the one hand, I’m sympathetic to Governor Spitzer’s need to resolve a problem we cannot ignore, but that has not been addressed by the federal government.
On the other hand, I understand the passion with which my fellow County Clerks throughout the state are trying to protect the integrity of the Driver’s License System. We need to sit down and reconcile the two sides.”