Spitzer, Chertoff Compromise on Drivers Licenses

Governor Eliot Spitzer today announced an agreement with the federal Department of Homeland Security to bring New York State into compliance with the Real ID Act. This makes New York State only the fourth state to do so, after Arizona, Vermont and Washington. The compromise involves creating a more secure driver’s license for U.S. citizens and allowing undocumented sojourners to get a different type of license. 

Despite the shift in the Governor’s proposal and the support of Homeland Security, don’t expect Assembly Minority Leader Tedisco and the County DMV’s to uncork the champagne and declare victory.

The point is, a significant number of people just don’t want undocumented sojourners to have driver’s licenses, come hell or highwater.

Michael Chertoff’s own support is pointedly qualified:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he was not happy that New York intended to issue IDs to illegal immigrants. But he said there was nothing he could do to stop it.

“I don’t endorse giving licenses to people who are not here legally, but federal law does allow states to make that choice,” Chertoff said.

The essence of the compromise is a three-tiered license system:

  • one license will be as secure as a passport and is intended for people who soon will need to meet such requirements, even for a short drive to Canada.
  • A second type of license not be as secure as a passport but will meet new federal standards of the Real ID Act, designed to make it much harder for undocumented sojourners or would-be terrorists to obtain licenses (sorry to be vague, but the standards are a work in progress.)
  • A third type of license will be available to undocumented sojourners.

Aye, matey, thar’s the rub.


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