Serrano Letter To Governor Urges Executive Order Protecting Immigrants

José M. Serrano

November 09, 2007

Governor Eliot Spitzer
State Capitol
Albany, New York 12224

Dear Governor Spitzer,

I write to you with strong reservations concerning the modified licensing policy. I believe the new "state driver’s license" does not, on its own, provide sufficient protections for undocumented workers. This is especially true at a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric has spread across the country.

As discussed in our meeting earlier this month, I urge you to complement the state driver’s license with an executive order to protect the rights of those individuals who are still on the path to obtaining legal status in the United States.

Unless immigrants are guaranteed some form of protection, I believe it is unlikely that many will apply for the licenses that your new plan makes available to them. I fear this will leave us where we started, without a comprehensive way to certify, insure and identify the tens of thousands of undocumented drivers in this state.

To this end, I propose using New York City’s experience as a model. Since Mayor Koch’s administration, it has been established policy for city agents to provide vital services without inquiring about immigration status.

Mayor Bloomberg has continued this practice by issuing Executive Order 41. It instructs city agents to keep information about immigration status confidential when dealing with individuals who are not engaged in illegal activity.

I would also recommend that your staff look into a piece of legislation I had co-sponsored in the New York City Council. Int. 0326-2002, the Access without Fear Bill, possesses even stronger wording than Executive Order 41.

A statewide Executive Order could help to allay fears that immigrants may have about applying for non-federally-approved licenses. By guaranteeing individuals that their immigration status will not be used against them in the event of a routine traffic stop, this Executive Order can help undocumented immigrants who are trying to do the right thing.

The policy change will also have the additional effect of aiding emergency service providers across the state. By allowing individuals to make reports without fear, an additional 900,000 eyes will be added to New York State’s law enforcement network. In New York City, under both Republican and Democratic mayors, such an approach has helped to significantly improve our safety.

In closing, I believe that we can work together, and in collaboration with the undocumented immigrants and non-profit advocates, to craft a pragmatic solution – one that provides for the welfare of all people living in New York State.

I respectfully request a meeting with you or your staff to discuss the matter, not to mention offer my assistance in any way possible.


José M. Serrano