2007-10-19 / Community

Weiner: Spitzer's Plan Needs Federal Regulation

By Nicholas Briano

The possibility of illegal immigrants receiving driver's licenses is becoming reality under Governor Spitzer's plan, but Rockaway's Congressman, Anthony Weiner, a mayoral hopeful, feels the federal government should intervene and regulate the controver-sial program.

Governor Spitzer and The Department of Motor Vehicles have jointly proposed an administrative policy change allowing illegal immigrants residing in New York to obtain driver's licenses, which were frequently denied under the policies of the previous administration in Albany. According to Congressman Weiner's press secretary, Weiner isn't necessarily against this change, but feels that there are certain aspects of the issue that still need to be addressed in relation to the Federal Real ID Act of 2005.

The Real ID Act requires the DMV to check an individual's citizenship status and to verify the authenticity of any legal document submitted as proof of identity. However, state compliance with Real ID is completely voluntary, and that is what Weiner feels must change. By 2013, New York will be almost forced to comply, because any state that doesn't follow the Real ID Act will see their state's identification rejected at federal checkpoints, such as airports and federal facilities. Essentially, your driver's license will serve only as proof of your authorization to operate a motor vehicle. Unless there is some intervening legislation, the governor's new policy is evidence that New York State is not moving in the direction of embracing the Real ID Act, intended to fight fraud and terrorism.

Governor Spitzer talked extensively about this during his campaign. The issue first arose back in 2004 when the DMV issued letters threatening to revoke the driver's licenses of anyone whose social security number did not match with what's on file with the federal government.

The DMV claims this was done, at the time, to fight identity fraud and terrorism, but the 300,000 licensed immigrants in New York State who received letters felt this was a blatant attack on their credibility and efforts at creating a life here in the United States. Weiner has publicly supported the idea of driver's licenses for everyone, but feels the issue must be addressed properly to avoid future problems and consequences.

Some officials have, in the past, suggested adoption of a two-tier system, in which people who lack immigrant status receive a type of alternate license or driver certificate. However, immigrant advocates like Chung-Wha Hong of The New York Immigration Coalition, urged Governor Spitzer to reject this idea, because it alienates immigrants into a specific group outside of citizens, which defies the entire purpose of even coming to this country.

Hong called the new motor vehicle policy a win for all New Yorkers that has endless benefits for the entire state, especially immigrants. While applauding the new policy, Hong feels this change will actually improve security in the state.

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