Last month, New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced that the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would reverse a post-9/11 policy by the Pataki administration to deny a driver’s license to anyone who could not prove legal status – immediately prompting at least a dozen county clerks who operate DMV offices as agents of the state to announce they would flout the new rules.

To combat identity fraud, all but eight states – HI, ME, MD, MI, NM, OR, UT and WA –require drivers to prove legal status to obtain driver’s licenses.

Spitzer did an about-face only after the state’s top Dem leaders warned that the controversial move would imperil the prospects of state Senate candidates, leading to “unprecidented losses” in November – and may even cost Hillary the state in the presidential race. And their fears are not unfounded: Pissed off New Yorkers rallied at the Capitol in Albany, calling for the governor’s impeachment or recall.

Last week, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (IL), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus took a break from enshrining Clinton Administration policies with his all-out effort to kill the Armenian Genocide Resolution to tell The Washington Post:

“This issue [illegal immigration] has real implications for the country. It captures all the American people’s anger and frustration not only with immigration, but with the economy. It’s self-evident. This is a big problem.” …

“For the American people, and therefore all of us, it’s emerged as the third rail of American politics. And anyone who doesn’t realize that isn’t with the American people.”

Spitzer finally listened to reason (or panic) and abandoned his insistence that drivers’ licenses for illegals be identical to standard licenses issued by the DMV and has now endorsed a different design, along with markings that prevent their use as ID when entering a federal building or boarding a plane. The state has also agreed to participate in the federal Real ID program, which requires drivers’ license applicants to prove legal residency and identity – a valid passport or visa and a verifiable Social Security number, for instance.

Those who earn their livings undermining every law meant to secure our borders, predictably condemned Spitzer, reports The Times:

The separate licenses could … serve as an invitation for law enforcement to arrest anyone carrying one on immigration charges, said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. She added that the new proposal could send illegal immigrants further into the shadows, compelling them to drive with forged or no licenses and without insurance.

As Spitzer and other politicians are dealing with the reality of an electorate enraged over illegal immigration, liberals prefer the fantasy that the real ill in “illegal” is racism, not lawlessness. This from Lawrence Downes, who has been a member of The Times’ editorial board since 2004:

Good thing I am not an illegal immigrant. There is no way out of that trap. It’s the crime you can’t make amends for. Nothing short of deportation will free you from it, such is the mood of the country today. And that is a problem.

America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of it stems from the word “illegal.” It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions. Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Used as an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people, it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it is detestable.

“Illegal” is accurate insofar as it describes a person’s immigration status. About 60 percent of the people it applies to entered the country unlawfully. The rest are those who entered legally but did not leave when they were supposed to. The statutory penalties associated with their misdeeds are not insignificant, but neither are they criminal. You get caught, you get sent home.

Since the word modifies not the crime but the whole person, it goes too far.

Illegal modifies the whole of the person’s actions, as one broken law begets another and another and another.

NY has between 500,000 and 1 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving without a license and car insurance or with fake driver’s licenses, reports Newsday. So up to one million people are in NY illegally, unknowable numbers of whom are driving illegally with phony drivers’ licenses, are driving illegally without car insurance, and are illegally using forged Social Security cards and stolen identities to get jobs.

These are decent people?

Back in September, Spitzer told The New York Times, “The D.M.V. is not the I.N.S.,” in justifying the decision to accept a current foreign passport as proof of identity without evidence of legal immigration, such as a valid visa. Critics countered that bestowing the exact same drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens as to legal residents of the state could facilitate voter fraud and terrorism. Said Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, “I don’t endorse giving licenses to people who are not here legally, but federal law does allow states to make that choice.”

However, realpolitik does not.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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