Senator Flanagan Disappointed With Governor Spitzer’s DMV Policy Change

John J. Flanagan

March 26, 2009


Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today expressed his disappointment with Governor Eliot Spitzer's decision to rescind a 2001 New York State Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) driver’s license policy that increased the documentation requirements necessary to obtain a driver's license. The policy required applicants to supply a social security card as proof of identification, and those without one to supply documentation from the United States Department of Homeland Security.

As a result of the Governor's action, the state will relax the once-stringent documentation requirements and allow a variety of documentation, including foreign-based identification. In addition, applicants will not be required to provide certification of their immigration status.

In June, Senator Flanagan sponsored and gained Senate passage of legislation which would have strengthened the identification requirements for obtaining driver's licenses and permanently established this important regulation in state law. The legislation was delivered to the Assembly but no action was taken.

"While the DMV is not responsible for enforcing immigration laws, New York State has a clear responsibility to ensure a very high standard to protect the legitimacy of driver's licenses. The legislation I introduced would protect the public from dishonest individuals trying to unlawfully obtain valid identification and provide legal New Yorkers with a measure of certainty about the process," stated Senator Flanagan.

Under the 2001 policy that Governor Spitzer has now rescinded, persons unable to produce a social security card had to provide documents from the United States Department of Homeland Security to verify their identity. Prior to 2001's change, applicants for driver’s licenses and non-driver’s photo identifications had to prove their identity by submitting a social security card or a letter from the Social Security Administration explaining that they are ineligible for a social security number.

The 2001 change in policy was deemed necessary due to the fact that the previously accepted Social Security Administration letter was too easily falsified. The policy was legally challenged as unconstitutional but recently upheld by the New York State Court of Appeals.

"The policy that Governor Spitzer has effectively annulled was aimed at preventing fraud and it should have been left in place. The previous administration had the vision to establish this security measure prior to 9/11 to make sure that New York State licenses only legitimate, law-abiding individuals. Now, that vision has been hampered by the shortsighted decision to allow those who reside in our state illegally to obtain these trusted and very necessary documents," added Senator Flanagan. "The fact is, a driver’s license is a privilege -- not a right -- that has the power of granting the license holder broad access to all sorts of secure and non-secure places and its validity must be above reproach."

Senator Flanagan also stated that his legislation is still active in the New York State Legislature and called for the Assembly to act to negate Governor Spitzer's policy change.