They No Longer Need to Pretend They’re Not Here

With a stated goal of “brining people our of the shadows,” Governor Spitzer has initiated a significant change in New York policy toward sojourners. New York will now allow undocumented immigrants who have a valid foreign passport to get a driver’s license.

Said the Governor: “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 AP story presents the predictable reactions. Congressmember Randy Kuhl (R-Bath) is quoted as saying the new policy “undermines the preventive measures that protect our country from national security threats. The September 11, 2001 hijackers had at least 35 licenses, which helped them to rent cars and open bank accounts.”

But Michael Balboni, New York’s homeland security head, said that the new system actually improves security because it creates public records that can be accessed by law enforcement and others to ensure true identities.

Now with all due respect, Congressmember Kuhl, New York has somewhere between one-half and one million undocumented sojourners.  Even if, say a dozen or so were inclined to do harm, what about the potential 999,988? Or do we make policy around a dozen and ignore the million?

Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, called the new policy a victory for the immigrant community.

She noted that immigrant New Yorkers who did not have access to a license had a difficult time making it to work and getting their children to school.

A little perspective is always in order. Education. Working. Paying taxes. Cool things to encourage, I’d say.


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