Driver Licenses Issue Takes Center Stage In Brooklyn

Kevin S. Parker

October 19, 2007

Brooklyn, NY – A cross-section of eager residents attended a Brooklyn town hall meeting to hear firsthand information about the new Department of Motor Vehicles policy surrounding the issuance of New York State driver licenses. Presenting the information was DMV Commissioner David J Swarts who gave a full account of the administration’s existing policy, the new policy to be implemented and also the proposed security enhancements.

The town hall meeting was hosted by State Senator Kevin Parker who has been a strong and vocal supporter of the policy which was announced by Governor Eliot Spitzer in late September. In addressing the crowd at the New Hope Christian Fellowship Center, Senator Parker said that a driver license is just that, "a license to drive. "A driver license should not be about immigration issues," he said. "That is the purview of the Federal government." Senator Parker, who is the Minority Whip of the Senate and the Chairman of the Democratic Task Force on New Americans called the mounting attacks against the policy change, "racist and partisan. These attacks are coming from people who have run this country for a long time but know that the wheels of change are coming. It is about people who are afraid to lose power," he said.

Commissioner Swarts, in his presentation, outlined the new policy in details but also voiced his support for Governor Spitzer who he said was "doing the right thing. What critics of this policy have done is to heighten people’s fears and use hysteria wrapped in that big word called terrorism," he said. "What this does is make the statement that essentially, if you are an immigrant, you are also a terrorist. This is illogical on the face, it is inconsistent and it is not correct," he said.

Emphasizing that the policy change is essentially a rolling back of a policy that was instituted in 2003 which required applicants for a driver license to provide a verifiable social security number. This change affected some 152,000 individuals who were in possession of valid NYS driver licenses but whose driving privileges were blocked as a result of the social security number requirement. "What we are doing is essentially rolling back the time," Commissioner Swarts said. He then hailed the new policy as "a commonsense approach to a failed federal immigration policy. The DMV has just two primary responsibilities," he said. "We need to know who you are and determine that a person is fit to drive."

In a spirited question and answer period which followed the Commissioner’s presentation, it was clear that people were both lacking in knowledge and skeptical about the new policy. Senator Parker then reaffirmed his commitment to stand up for this policy as well empower his constituents with knowledge and information.

In keeping with this commitment, Senator Parker will host a free citizenship application assistance day on Saturday, Oct. 27 in conjunction with the Citizenship and Immigration Project of the City University of New York.