When in Doubt, Ask the “W’s”

Do journalists make a habit of asking the “W’s” I learned in journalism 101? Who? What? When? Where? Why? The more the heat goes up on Governor Spitzer’s new policy to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, the less light there is.  We have dark heat!

Not so helpful are the cable TV newsfaces, who tend to ask the “1 H:” “Huh?” There’s a lot of huh-ing lately.

In dark heat, you see, people climb up over barbed wire fences on the Mexican border, migrate up to New York State, use bogus identity documents to get a driver’s license, use the driver’s license to take flight lessons, and get set to blow up you and yours.  Or at least they get their driver’s licenses and go out and clog up our schools and hospitals until they are bankrupted.

The  Governor has countered the dark heat in many ways, responding today to the Twenty-Nine-Angry-Republican-County-Clerks-Plus-One:

To be clear, DMV’s policy change and the new regime of anti-fraud security measures tied to that change will actually increase the security of our license system.

First, DMV will insist that undocumented immigrants provide a current and valid passport that can be verified using our new state-of-the-art document scanning work stations. Second, for undocumented immigrants, rather than the traditional over-the-counter-process, DMV is establishing a central Document Verification Unit, staffed by specially-trained DMV personnel, to verify the other four points of identification that will corroborate an undocumented immigrant’s current and valid passport. Third, DMV will implement photo-comparison technology to ensure the principle of “one person/one license” is upheld. The technology will compare the photograph of every applicant against the database of photographs in the current system to make sure an applicant is not able to get more than one license fraudulently.

Taken together, this new security regime will make the New York State licensing process the most secure in the nation.

And I said to myself, “well that’s nice, but who do you mean by undocumented immigrants, and what is required or not required of them specifically, why are we doing this, when does the whole thing go into effect and where can I find out more details?

Last first. “Where” sure wasn’t the internets. The Governor’s site is press oriented, which means wonk-unfriendly. The DMV site is consumer oriented, in its bureaucratic little way. So I did the old fashioned thing. I called the Governor’s office for information. They gave me the number of the DMV Commissioner’s office, and there the receptionist put me on the line with the communications person, who transferred me to the call center. There I waited on hold for several rounds of computer solitaire and at least one e-mail reply to someone.

Finally, a gentleman came on the phone and explained it to me. Here it is.

There are roughly 60,000 people in New York State who had visas and New York driver’s licenses, but whose visas are currently expired and who therefore, under current rules, cannot renew their licenses. The rule changes announced by Governor Spitzer on September 21st only apply to these people. What has gone into effect thus far is that these people have been notified of the changes. In November they will be notified as to what to do.

These changes do not apply to people attempting to obtain an original license or transferring from another state. The standard proofs apply to everyone else, as outlined by the DMV in detail.

Thus saith the DMV call center man.

Hmph. Is that all?


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