[The fervor of anti immigrant attack dogs reminds me of the comparable prejudice against the most recent immigrants of my childhood days — Eastern European Jewish, Polish, Italian and Irish Americans. I have worked with a college naturalization program and know all too well how inefficient in processing legitimate immigrants our system has become — refugees, family members, etc. And the lack of a worker program is simply a shot in the foot of American productivity and even our basic food supplies that are tended by migrants. All that having been said, the furor over requiring undocumented residents to pass drivers tests is pure madness. If we are going to have drivers on the road, we must be sure that they are qualified and that they are properly insured, should they have an accident. The following from the American Friends Service Committee takes on one of the further scare tactics. Ed Kent}



September 29, 2007

Political License in New York

When Gov. Eliot Spitzer decided this month to make it easier for immigrants to drive legally, his critics predicted the sky would fall on anyone with a New York State driver’s license. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg, normally a measured voice, warned that New Yorkers might not be able to use their licenses to get on airplanes if the governor has his way.

That is not so as it turns out. Or certainly, it will not be so for some time yet. If Congress fails to change the Real ID Act – a clunker of a law passed two years ago – state driver’s licenses will have to be re-engineered by 2013 to be accepted as federal identification. Until then, New York’s licenses will be as good in the security lines at the airports as those from the eight other states that do not require proof of immigration status to drive.

So far, no state licenses comply with the tough Real ID standards. The list of requirements includes a special paper stock with secret markers, laser engraving, mandatory re-licensing in person and not by mail, proof of residence and, in most cases, a Social Security card.

Some states have already opted out of Real ID, citing costs that should be – but are not – borne by Washington, privacy concerns and questions about whether Real ID would actually be more secure. If the law goes into effect as written and passenger regulations stay the same, residents of many of these states would need another form of identification, such as a passport, to board a plane.

Governor Spitzer has not said whether he wants New York to opt out of the Real ID law. He is expected to ask for more time from the federal authorities to figure out whether and how to offer a New York driver’s license that complies with the law. One possibility would be a two-tiered system in which residents who want the more elaborate Real ID pay extra for it after 2013. Among the problems with such an approach is that the creation of a lesser license could mean more harassment of anyone who tries to use it.

Republican opposition to Mr. Spitzer’s move has taken a strident anti-immigrant tone that is unwelcome in this discussion. State Senator Joseph Bruno, New York’s top elected Republican, got it right initially when he said he could “understand the merits” of Mr. Spitzer’s proposal. Too bad he soon joined other Republicans and accused the governor of trying to give illegal immigrants the right to vote. It is a baseless claim since New Yorkers do not need a driver’s license to vote, and the criminal laws against vote fraud provide ample deterrent to any illegal immigrant thinking of casting a ballot.

Mr. Spitzer has made the right decision. New York State driver’s licenses should go to residents who have proved their identity – and their ability to drive safely. There will be plenty of time between now and 2013 to figure out whether and how New York State should integrate its driver’s license with federal standards.

American Friends Service Committee welcomes you to share any information you have on LOCAL immigrant and refugee-related news, events, related position openings and volunteer needs (ie. interpreters, translators, visitors for detainees) in New York and New Jersey.

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“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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