Senate To Act Today On Bill To Prohibit Drivers Licenses For Illegal Aliens

Hugh T. Farley

October 22, 2007

The New York State Senate will act today on legislation that would stop Governor’s Spitzer’s plan to issue drivers license to illegal aliens by requiring a social security number or proof of authorized presence in the United States to obtain a New York State drivers license or non-driver identification card.


"I have never seen such strong and united opposition to a proposal by the Governor," Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said. "Governor Spitzer’s plan to give drivers licenses to illegal aliens has incensed New Yorkers in every part of the State and every political party because they see the threat it would pose to public safety and security. The Governor insists on moving forward with this plan, but today the Senate will act on legislation to stop it. I urge the Assembly to pass this bill to send a clear message to the Governor that he should drop this plan."

The legislation (S.6484) the Senate will take up today is sponsored by Senator Frank Padavan (Queens). It would require applicants for a drivers license or non-driver identification card to submit a social security number. When a social security number cannot be provided, the applicant must demonstrate they are ineligible to get a number and provide satisfactory proof that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized under federal law.

"My legislation ensures that the most important form of personal identification, the New York state driver’s license, maintains its high standard of security and integrity," Senator Padavan said. "This comprehensive legislation reverses the Spitzer administration’s dangerous policy that grants illegal aliens driver’s licenses and enacts the necessary safeguards to help eliminate the fraudulent issuances of driver’s licenses throughout the state while helping to protect the safety, security and well-being of all New Yorkers."

The Senate held a public hearing on the legislation last week. Experts on national security, immigration, secure drivers licenses and ID cards, and representatives of the families of 9/11 victims spoke out against the Governor’s plan, calling it a threat to security.


Senator John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport), a co-prime sponsor of the bill, said: "The governor's policy change was put in place without any public debate or public vote and, on an issue this important, that is an unacceptable way to govern. Millions of New York residents have stated that they are opposed to this policy and today's vote will let them know that their voice is vital to the process and that their opinion will not be ignored. This is a policy that weakens our collective security and I am hopeful that the Assembly will join us in voicing the people's opinion that this is wrong for our state."

Senator Vincent Leibell (R-C-I, Patterson), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, said: "We are examining our full array of options, including passing legislation, holding public hearings and the commencement of litigation, to enjoin his attempt to put all our citizens at risk. Before this action taken by the Governor, New York State was the national benchmark for assuring the security and reliability of its drivers licenses. A drivers license is the most important, uniformly recognized identification document used in the United States. This action of the Governor would seriously place every New Yorker at risk and dramatically compromise our security."

Senator Martin Golden said: "The Governor’s proposal to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses is wrong on so many levels. It flaunts the Constitution and the laws of our Nation as well as our State, and puts the lives of all New Yorkers at risk. The reason we are passing this legislation is because the Governor turned his back on the wishes of his constituents and is pursuing an ill-conceived and potentially deadly agenda."

Senator Hugh Farley said: "This issue has galvanized my constituents, with nearly 100% of those who have contacted me opposing the Governor's plan. Many people in our area are first- or second-generation immigrants who have worked hard to become American citizens. They are strongly opposed to the Governor's efforts to reward lawbreakers, while, at the same time, making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to comply with federal identity requirements."

"Illegal Aliens receiving legal New York drivers licenses smacks in the face of smart and sound public policy," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "Now, the Governor wants to give motor-voter documentation to these same illegal aliens so that they may be able to vote. The public is outraged by these non-sensicle proposals and the bills we will pass today will right the Governor's wrong. Governing by edicts and circumventing our democratic institutions must stop, governing to score political points at the expense of sound public policy must stop, and listening and cooperating with the State Legislature to get results on a myriad of economic development, tax relief, job creation, and sound criminal justice policies must begin."

State Senator Serphin R. Maltese (Queens) said, "Ultimately, this is a serious gap in our national security - we may as well hand the terrorists the keys to the state. In the fight against terrorism, we are only as safe as our weakest link and Governor Spitzer is making New York State the weak link. It is a recipe for disaster. We need to remember a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right."

"We are all the children or grandchildren of legal immigrants. They, and millions like them, built this great country. All are welcome in America, but through the front door, not the back door. Our driver’s license must remain one of the most important documents the government issues to establish one’s identity," said Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R-Syosset).

"By trying to enforce a policy that was not properly vetted by the public and the Legislature, the Governor is not only compromising our state’s security, he is jeopardizing our citizens’ ability to travel--particularly cross-border travel," said Senator Mary Lou Rath (R-C-I, Williamsville), Chair of the Senate’s Tourism, Recreation and Sports Development Committee. "Much tourism is generated by Canadian and Western New York residents attending sporting events and participating in recreational activities. Invalidating our driver’s license as a means of ID certainly would limit the ease of travel we now enjoy."

"Jamming a major public policy decision down the throats of county clerks through an executive order is an arrogant exercise in the abuse of power," Senator Joseph Griffo (R-C, Rome) said. "Our system of government is built on openness and debate, not decisions reached in isolation."

"The Governor's executive order flies in the face of both state and federal law and could potentially jeopardize the safety and security of all New Yorkers," said Senator John A. DeFrancisco. "Furthermore, a majority of New Yorkers are opposed to the Governor's plan. The legislation we will act on today is a necessary step in helping to protect New Yorkers and uphold the law."

Senator Bill Larkin stated, "I believe we should listen to the more than 70% of New Yorkers who oppose this radical plan by the Governor, as well as to the families of the 3,000 murdered on September 11th who, as a united group, have publicly called all states to join the overwhelming majority of the states that have enacted bills to ban the issuance of drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants and other lawbreakers."