Senate Passes Bill To Prohibit Drivers Licenses For Illegal Aliens

Hugh T. Farley

October 23, 2007

The New York State Senate today passed legislation that would stop Governor Spitzer’s plan to issue drivers licenses 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 passed 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 passed 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 drivers 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 drivers licenses and enacts the necessary safeguards to help eliminate the fraudulent issuances of drivers 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 (R-C, Brooklyn) said: "The Governor’s proposal to give illegal immigrants drivers licenses is wrong on so many levels. It flaunts the Constitution and the laws of our Nation as well as of our State, and puts the lives of all New Yorkers at risk. The reason we passed 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 (R-C, Schenectady) said: "This issue has galvanized my constituents, with nearly 100 percent 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."

Senator Dale M. Volker (R-C-I, Depew) said: "Illegal aliens receiving legal New York drivers licenses smacks in the face of smart and sound public policy. 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 bill we passed 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 drivers license is a privilege, not a right."

Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R-Syosset) said: "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."

Senator Mary Lou Rath (R-C-I, Williamsville), Chair of the Senate’s Tourism, Recreation and Sports Development Committee, said: "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. Much tourism is generated by Canadian and Western New York residents attending sporting events and participating in recreational activities. Invalidating our drivers license as a means of ID certainly would limit the ease of travel we now enjoy."

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

Senator John A. DeFrancisco said: "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. Furthermore, a majority of New Yorkers are opposed to the Governor's plan. The legislation we passed today is a necessary step in helping to protect New Yorkers and uphold the law."

Senator Bill Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-On-Hudson) stated: "I believe we should listen to the more than 70 percent 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."

Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette) said: "Thousands of my constituents have contacted me to express their strong opposition to Governor Spitzer’s proposal to grant drivers licenses to illegal aliens. This misguided policy by the Governor raises serious issues for our homeland security agencies charged with the responsibility to protect our borders and safeguard our security. It would also result in tax increases as New York State residents struggle to bear the costs of housing, education and medical services to individuals who will seek New York out as a place to live."

Senator Owen H. Johnson (R-Babylon) said: "People who are here in the United States legally and can meet the requirements for a New York State drivers license should continue to be able to obtain one. As for loosening the standards for the drivers license and allowing those who are here illegally to obtain one, I am absolutely opposed. It’s not only a threat to our safety and security, it’s just plain wrong. That’s why I am supporting this legislation today. I hope the Assembly will join us in passing this legislation so that this ill-advised policy can be stopped."

Senator George Winner (R-C, Elmira) said: "In an era defined by homeland security, the Governor’s action is outrageous. To take the action with no public input, and even on short notice to the county clerks charged with carrying out the misguided policy, is arrogant."

Senator Tom Libous (R-C-I, Binghamton) said: "Hundreds of concerned citizens in my District have reached out to me and remain almost unanimously against the Governor’s proposal. This is a non-partisan issue across the State and in the Southern Tier. That’s why the Governor should halt his plan. It threatens our safety and wrongly rewards people for breaking the law."

Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie) said: "New York was at the epicenter of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and that horrific day taught us that we must be vigilant to keep our State and country safe. The simple precaution of requiring a Social Security Number to prove one’s legal status in this country is a commonsense way of helping to prevent terrorists from obtaining one of the most routinely accepted forms of identification used in this country."

Senator Dean Skelos (R, Rockville Centre) said: "Governor Spitzer's plan poses a threat to public safety and security, diminishes the value of licenses held by law-abiding citizens, opens the door to potential voter fraud and rewards illegal behavior. It is not surprising then, that 72 percent of New Yorkers oppose this ill-advised and deeply flawed policy. This legislation would prevent Governor Spitzer's disastrous plan from moving forward, and I urge the Assesmbly to act on it swiftly."

The bill was sent to the Assembly.