NY Gov Axes Plan to Give Illegals Driver's Licenses

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Stating that "it does not take a stethoscope to hear the pulse of New Yorkers on this topic," New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Wednesday abandoned his controversial proposal to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

The same day, members of Congress announced they will introduce legislation this week to prevent states from issuing driver's licenses to illegals.

"Over the last two months, I have been advancing a proposal that I believe would improve the safety and security of the people of my state by addressing the fact that New York is home to 1 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving on our roads unlicensed," Spitzer said during a news conference in Washington, D.C.

"After serious deliberation and consultation with people I respect on all sides of this issue, I have concluded that New York state cannot successfully address this problem on its own," he added before withdrawing his proposal.

Surrounded by Democratic lawmakers from his state, Spitzer also used the Capitol Hill announcement as an opportunity to criticize the U.S. government for leaving states to deal with illegal immigrants.

"The federal government has lost control of its borders, has allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to enter our country, and now has no solution to deal with it," the governor said, adding that states, cities, towns and villages around the country face this "practical reality" every day "in our schools, in our hospitals and on our roads."

"In New York, that means 1 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving without a license and without insurance, and all of whom are living in the shadows with no real identity," he noted.

"While states lack the ability to fix our immigration laws, we do have the obligation to try to address some of their negative consequences," Spitzer stated. "My proposal would have improved an unsatisfactory situation.

"But I have listened to the legitimate concerns of the public and those who would be affected by my proposal, and have concluded that pushing forward unilaterally in the face of such strong opposition would be counterproductive," he said.

"As New Yorkers, we respect that people from all over the world come to this country to work hard and to live the American dream, just like all four of my grandparents," the governor added. "But at the same time, we are troubled when people violate our immigration laws."

"The reality of 14 million undocumented immigrants nationwide and 1 million in New York isn't going away," he said. "So my challenge to the federal government is this: Fix it. Fix the problem so the states won't face the local impact."

Cybercast News Service previously reported that Spitzer enacted the policy as a "common-sense change" to give illegal aliens "the opportunity to obtain a driver's license in a responsible and secure manner."

However, the program became a national issue on Oct. 30, when Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) both defended and objected to the idea during a Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia.

In an attempt to "clarify" her position the next day, Clinton said that she sympathized with governors in Spitzer's position, which her advisers said amounted to support for his plan.

The next day, Cybercast News Service asked several members of Congress if they supported Spitzer's policy.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), whose state neighbors New York, said, "It's an outrage to provide licenses to people who are here illegally. That gives them legal status."

"I think it's appropriate to approach driver's licenses as a privilege, not simply as a right," said Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). "I think we ought to be pretty careful in how we give them out."

During the next few days, lawsuits were filed against the program by Republican members of the New York State Assembly - who called the policy "unlawful" - and the government watchdog group Judicial Watch.

"If Gov. Spitzer wants to change the rules, he has to follow the rules, which means going through the New York state legislature," said the organization's president, Tom Fitton.

After Spitzer's announcement on Wednesday, Fitton issued a statement that indicated his group was "pleased" that the governor responded to the organization's lawsuit "and the will of the citizens of New York" when he "abandoned his irresponsible plan to issue driver's licenses for illegal aliens."

"Let this be a lesson to all public officials who continue to push taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens despite overwhelming public opposition," Fitton said. "The American people have spoken yet again on the issue of illegal immigration.

"State and local officials are expected to help enforce immigration laws, not undermine and violate them," he added.

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) - the ranking GOP member on the House Homeland Security Committee - announced that he and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) will this week introduce a bill in Congress that would prevent New York and other states from providing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

"Providing a driver's license to illegal immigrants isn't just bad immigration policy, it's also a threat to our national and homeland security," said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a news release announcing the King legislation.

"The lessons we learned from the 9/11 attacks tell us that every driver's license must be secure and tamper-proof," he said. "We must never forget that the 9/11 terrorists obtained a total of 28 state-issued identification documents or driver's licenses."

"Sen. Clinton may not be able to explain her position on this, but the tens of millions of Americans who expressed outrage over this proposal were abundantly clear: rewarding illegal immigrants with driver's licenses is wrong, it defies common sense, and they will not stand for it," said Boehner.

"Just ask Gov. Spitzer," he added.

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