Democratic governor in New York, Eliot Spitzer, has recently been promoting a controversial plan to provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants in his state that would be identical to licenses issued to legal residents. His justification was reportedly to bring illegals "out of the shadows" and to make New York streets safer for other drivers and pedestrians. Other supporters have claimed that his plan will enable illegals to lead more normal lives like the rest of us. High profile political commentator and CNN anchor, Lou Dobbs, has been highly critical of Spitzer, recently calling him an idiot for promoting his plan, later apologizing, saying he doesn't really consider Spitzer an idiot, but stating vociferously that his policies are idiotic.
In Sunday's Los Angeles Times it was reported that, to appease some of the critics, Spitzer had made some compromises to his plan. He reluctantly agreed that the licenses would not be identical. They will not be usable for boarding a plane or as federal identification, and, importantly, all applicants will need to provide passports and proof of state residency. These changes were apparently sufficient to get to get an OK from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, though Chertoff made it clear he still didn't think the plan was a good idea.
In my blog on Illegal Immigration, posted on 9/22/07, I noted many of my views on the subject, though I didn't specifically cover driver's licenses. There may be some benefits to the public from issuing licenses to illegals, such as the state's Department of Motor Vehicles verifying through their testing that those receiving licenses can drive competently and safely. However, I'm still not in favor of the plan, primarily on the grounds that it is yet another form of amnesty and a significant incentive for additional illegals to try to enter the country. If we want to control the inflow of more illegals, which most Americans seem to agree with, we need to make it less attractive for illegals, not more.
I still believe that a great many of the 12-15 million illegals already here will voluntarily return to Mexico and other homelands over the next 3-4 years if it's more difficult to lead a normal life here. If, on the other hand, we implement driver's license issuing and other amnesty programs, even with stronger and highly expensive border control programs, we seriously risk the number of illegals here doubling within the next 10-15 years. There's no doubt that for many fairly obvious reasons this would not be good for America.
As I said in my earlier blog, a rarely talked about key needed action step to this issue is having a candid high-level negotiation between the Administration and the Mexican government about what we expect their government to do to finally help us deal with the problem. This can be a win/win situation for both countries. It was refreshing and gratifying to read in a recent newspaper article what a Mexican firefighter said about the subject. He had commendably come across the border to help out fight the Harris fire in southern San Diego County. When asked about illegal immigration he reportedly said that Mexico should be able to solve the problem millions of poor Mexican workers have, implying that it should not primarily be up to the U. S. government. I agree with him, though it is obvious to me that the results can be much more positive for everyone involved if there is strong and effective collaboration and cooperation by the two governments. Why can't politicians in both countries figure this out? Isn't this pretty close to a no brainer?