- Eliot Spitzer drivers license controversy
On September 21, 2007,
Governor of New York Eliot Spitzerissued an executive order directing that state offices allow illegal aliens to be issued driver's licenseseffective December 2007. [cite news |title=Department of Motor Vehicles Changes License Policy to Include More New Yorkers and Implements New Regime of Anti-Fraud Measures to Strengthen the Security of the System
url=http://www.ny.gov/governor/press/0921071.html |work=press release |publisher=Office of the Governor of New York |date=2007-09-21 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] cite news |first=Nina |last=Bernstein |title=Spitzer grants illegal immigrants easier access to driver's licenses |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DE4D7103AF931A1575AC0A9619C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-09-22 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ] The measure was introduced three times. Once, as an executive order that was later withdrawn, then revamped as a legislative bill, which was defeated in the
New York State Senate, and finally introduced as an administrative measure through the Department of Motor Vehiclesand withdrawn again after heavy public and political opposition.
First and second plans
Applicants for driver's licenses would not be required to prove legal immigration status and would be allowed to present a foreign passport as identification. At that point, eight other states did not require individuals to prove their legal immigration status when applying for a driver's licenses. [cite news |first=Chris |last=Hawley |title=Not legal? No Mexican driver's license for you |publisher=USA Today |date=2007-11-17 |url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-11-15-mexicolicense_N.htm The eight states of Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington do not require proof of legal residence when applying for a drivers license. ] Spitzer said that the new policy would help all New Yorkers by improving traffic safety, because unlicensed drivers are nearly five times as likely to be in fatal car crashes compared to licensed drivers. Spitzer also claimed that the policy would effectively allow illegal immigrants to buy auto insurance, which would reduce the number of uninsured drivers in the state and therefore decrease insurance premiums for all New Yorkers by an estimated $120 million.
After meeting with the Department of Homeland Security in October 2007, Spitzer agreed that licenses issued to illegal aliens would look different from other licenses and that the new licenses would not allow access to airplanes and federal buildings. [cite news |first=James T. |last=Madore |title=Spitzer defends license plan over Democrat fears |publisher=Newsday |date=2007-11-09 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ]
The Spitzer proposal was met with massive criticism from both political parties. [cite news |first=Elizabeth |last=Benjamin |title=Clue us in, Democrats growl at Eliot Spitzer |url=http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2007/10/29/2007-10-29_clue_us_in_democrats_growl_at_eliot_spit.html |publisher="New York Daily News" |date=2007-10-29 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ] Critics charged that the plan would open the door for illegal aliens to obtain official identification and compromise security improvements made since September 11, 2001. His critics included Democratic presidential candidate Senator
Christopher Dodd, who denounced the proposal at a debate held on October 30. [cite news |first=Geoff |last=Earle |title=Hillary trips over Spitzer debate |url=http://www.nypost.com/seven/10312007/news/nationalnews/hill_trips_over_spitz_debate.htm |publisher=New York Post |date=2007-10-31 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] After a day of equivocation following the debate, Senator Hillary Clintonissued a prepared statement that endorsed the plan.cite news |first=Sasha |last=Issenberg |title=Clinton backs N.Y. driver's license plan for illegal immigrants |url=http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/11/01/clinton_backs_ny_drivers_license_plan_for_illegal_immigrants/ |publisher=boston.com |date=2007-11-01 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] New York City Mayor Michael Bloombergopposed the executive order, calling it "inappropriate." [cite news |first=Sandra |last=Endo |title=Bloomberg Critical Of Spitzer's Driver's License Plan |url=http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=1&aid=75210 |publisher=NY1 News |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] Minority leader of the State Assembly, James Tedisco, promised a lawsuit to block the proposal. [cite news |title=License plan faces lawsuit; Hochul may join |url=http://www.wben.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=08609 |publisher=WBEN-AM |date=2007-10-24 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ]
County clerks across the state would have been required to issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens, but thirteen county clerks promised not to do so. [cite news |first=Joseph |last=Spector |title=County clerks vow to fight Spitzer drivers' license policy |url=http://www.pressconnects.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071004/NEWS01/710040375 |publisher=Press & Sun-Bulletin |date=2007-10-04 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ] One such clerk who denounced the proposal was Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, who was appointed to serve an interim term in her office by Spitzer. She was elected to serve the remaining three years of the term of her predecessor, state Motor Vehicles Commissioner
David Swarts, after vocally breaking with Spitzer. [cite web|url=http://www.wgrz.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=52460|title=Kathy Hochul Wins Race for Erie County Clerk]
Others who opposed the proposal included Democratic Congresswoman
Kirsten Gillibrand, [cite news |first=Maury |last=Thompson |title=Spitzer meets opposition |url=http://www.poststar.com/articles/2007/09/29/news/local/12965875.txt |publisher=The Post Star |date=2007-09-29 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] Democratic County Executive Steve Levyof Suffolk County, and Long Island Democratic State Senator Craig Johnson.cite news |first=Charles |last=Hurt |coauthors=Kenneth Lovett |title=Bush steers clear of Spitzer's driver plan |url=http://www.nypost.com/seven/10102007/news/regionalnews/bush_steers_clear_of_spitzers_.htm |publisher=New York Post |date=2007-10-10 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] While the issue initially was significant only in New York, cable TV and talk radio made this a national controversy, as one of Spitzer's strongest critics was CNNhost Lou Dobbs, who labeled Spitzer an "idiot" for this policy. [cite news |title=Lou Dobbs Makes Spitzer Nightly Pinata |work=Associated Press |publisher=Fox News |date=2007-10-29 |first=Larry |last=McShane |url=http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Oct29/0,4670,APonTVDrivingwithDobbs,00.html ] While opposition to the driver's license proposal emerged from both political parties, Spitzer claimed his opponents were aligned with the "rabid right." [cite news |title=Spitzer attacks critics, again |url=http://buffalonews.typepad.com/politics_now/2007/10/spitzer-attacks.html |publisher=The Buffalo News |date=2007-10-09 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ]
On October 21, 2007, the State Senate voted to oppose the Spitzer plan by a 39-19 vote.cite news |first=Nicholas |last=Confessore |title=Senate Votes to Stop Spitzer Plan to Give Illegal Immigrants Driver's Licenses |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/nyregion/23legislature.html?ex=1350792000&en=1e4ab8ac28507b83&ei=5089&partner=rssyahoo&emc=rss |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-10-23 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] cite news |first=Nicholas |last=Confessore |title=Why Some Democrats Defected on Spitzer Driver's License Plan |url=http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/looking-at-the-state-senates-democratic-defectors/ |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-10-23 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] Eight Democrats from moderate districts broke with Spitzer on the vote. After the vote, "
The New York Times" called this issue "Mr. Spitzer’s single most unpopular decision since he took office."
Following the State Senate's vote, Spitzer revised his plan again, proposing the issuance of a third type of driver's license. This driver's license would be available only to United States citizens who are New York State residents, and would be valid for crossing the Canadian border.cite news |first=Nicholas |last=Confessore |title=Visa data to be included on driver's licenses again |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/31/nyregion/31license.html |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-10-31 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ] Spitzer also announced that the expiration dates of temporary visas would be printed on the driver's licenses of individuals on temporary visas.
A poll conducted by
Survey USAon October 3 reported that 56% of New Yorkers opposed the Governor's plan. [cite news |title=Poll: Many oppose Spitzer's license plan |url=http://wnyt.com/article/stories/s214613.shtml?cat=300 |publisher=WNYT |date=2007-10-03 |accessdate=2007-11-10 ] By November 13, a poll by Siena Collegereported that 70% of New Yorkers opposed his plan; furthermore, only 25% would vote to re-elect Spitzer. [cite news |title=Spitzer scraps unpopular plan to give licenses to illegals |utl=http://www.wten.com/Global/story.asp?S=7358980 |publisher=WTEN |date=2007-11-14 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ]
On November 14, the day following the release of the Siena College poll, Governor Spitzer announced he would withdraw the plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, acknowledging that it would never be implemented. [cite news |first=Devlin |last=Barrett |title=Spitzer Dropping His Driver's License Plan |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/nyregion/14spitzer.html |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-11-14 |accessdate=2007-11-14 ] cite web
title= Just Call Him…Gov. Flip-Flop
November 15, 2007
work= Local News
WCBS-TV] The decision drew derision from the press, as the Associated Presstermed this reversal a "surrender." [cite news |first=Devlin |last=Barrett |title=Gov. Spitzer Surrenders on License Fight |publisher=Associated Press |date=2007-11-15 |accessdate=2007-11-26 ] WCBS-TVlabeled him "Governor Flip-Flop." State Senator Ruben Diazof the Bronx said he was "betrayed" by Spitzer's abandonment of the plan. [cite news |first=Kennth |last=Lovett |coauthors=Geoff Earle |title=Hill's 'Stand?' Well, today is Thursday |url=http://www.nypost.com/seven/11152007/news/regionalnews/hills_stand__well__today_is_thursday_____437996.htm |publisher=New York Post |date=2007-11-15 |accessdate=2007-11-26 ]
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