Posted October 29, 2007 in News • Tags:

This is essentially our illustrious governor Spitzer’s position on his recent initiative to give “special” driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. I just heard him utter words to that effect on the news. (I think his exact words were “it’s not a privilege”–ludicrously comparing the securing of a driver’s license to buying a NYC subway MetroCard!)

Now, I’m not going to go deeply into the issue of immigration here, illegal or otherwise. As it happens, I’m rather in favor of immigration. I believe it makes our country stronger to allow the free flow of people seeking a better life. The rise in the number of illegals is due mainly to our broken immigration system, not to some imagined desire to “break the law”. For now, let’s take the Realpolitik view that illegals in large numbers are going to remain a permanent feature of American life.

The real issue with Spitzer’s idiotic display is the tortured, mixed message it sends about driver’s licenses. The State has always said, correctly, that driving is a privilege, not a right. Driving is dangerous enough that we expect a minimal level of competency before allowing a person to do it. But here comes Spitzer turning it into some kind of entitlement or product (“it’s just like buying a Metrocard!”). So which is it? Is driving a privilege or not?

More importantly, there is the mixed message brought about by the de-facto usage of the driver’s license (or non-driver ID) as a national ID card. The driver’s license is the most valuable document to provide to the federal government when applying for a passport (so valuable, in fact, that they don’t allow using a non-driver ID–as I found out a few years ago, with the bogus excuse that the non-driver ID did not require sufficient proof of citizenship). In other words, the driver’s license is recognized by the federal government as evidence of citizenship. Now Spitzer wants a “special” license for non-citizens. Illegals are predictably up-in-arms about this. They want a real license because they don’t want to be tracked by the government; better to just continue driving without one.

A cynic could almost view this initiative as a excuse to ignore (or bypass) the real, intractable problem: the broken immigration system. This view posits that we’ll never solve the immigration problem, and illegals need licenses, so we’ll give ‘em licenses. Well. I agree that drivers need to be licensed, but circumventing the national use of driver’s licenses as proof of citizenship is not the way to go about it. Instead, the real work of fixing the broken immigration system needs to happen. This will likely include some sort of amnesty to legalize the illegals who are already here–which I am completely in favor of for those who have proven otherwise law-abiding, productive members of society. But it will mainly involve speeding up the process of becoming a citizen, thereby removing the perverse incentive to remain here illegally in the first place.

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