Plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants under fire in New York

| 10/17/2007

A controversial plan by the New York governor to offer driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants drew debate this week.

In Senate committee hearings Monday, Oct. 15, testimony was offered on the new Department of Motor Vehicles policy that would allow people without Social Security numbers to provide a passport to receive a driver’s license. The plan is scheduled to be fully implemented by next spring.

Republicans and others have berated the $1.4 million plan because of concern that it could hurt the state’s security and remove a barrier for a terrorist attack. They also said the policy would, in effect, condone breaking immigration laws.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, said the new system would make the state more secure. It also would help account for illegal immigrants who obtain licenses and insurance as well as improve traffic safety and lower insurance costs, he told The New York Times.

There appears to be no easy solution, so it is expected the issue will go to the courts. In addition, a budget battle is expected during the 2008 regular session.

The Spitzer administration said the policy doesn’t require the approval of the state Legislature. Senate Republicans countered and said that they could withhold money needed to put the new system in place.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor