Seward: No Drivers' Licenses For Illegals

James L. Seward

September 26, 2007

State Senator James L. Seward today said that he would oppose Governor Spitzer's plan to issue drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. Spitzer announced last week he would make drivers' licenses available to illegal immigrants through regulation.

"What is there about the word 'illegal' in 'illegal immigration' that the governor doesn't understand? " Seward said. "A driver's license has become a key item of secure identification nationwide, and the governor's policy would be a disaster for our national security."

Seward said that until now New York State was the national standard for assuring the security and reliability of its drivers' licenses. A driver's license is the most important, uniformly recognized identification document used in the United States.

"The governor's action -- again trying an end run around the legislature -- would seriously place every New Yorker at risk and dramatically compromise our security," Seward said. "And it's not fair to the thousands of legal immigrants who played by the rules and became part of our society legally."

Seward noted that the governor’s action to issue drivers' licenses in New York to illegal aliens would be a violation of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Section 502 (1) of the law specifically requires that a person must provide his social security number when applying for a New York State driver's license. The 1995 law has been upheld by the New York State Court of Appeals as recently as June 7, 2007. The state law cannot be arbitrarily and unilaterally repealed by the governor simply by removing a regulation that provides for its enforcement, Seward said.

"Terrorists seeking to attack the United States have used validly issued drivers' licenses from other states as identification. The September 11th hijackers all used drivers' licenses to purchase their airline tickets, rent cars and reserve hotel rooms," Seward said.

The federal government passed the Real ID Act, which requires social security number background checks of people applying for drivers' licenses. Governor Spitzer’s action will place his administration in violation of state and federal law.

" I urge the governor to reconsider his plan -- it's bad for New York and for the nation, and sends a terrible message: 'Break the law; get a driver's license,' " Seward said.