Behind the Headlines
by Sharma Hammond, Esq.,
Providing Illegal Aliens Driver's Licenses
Governor Spitzer of New York announced late last month that New York would provide driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Contrary to the 70% of New Yorkers who disapprove of this act, Governor Spitzer plans to go forward with this action. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff contacted the Governor to express his Department's deep concern that Spitzer's proposed executive order would seriously interfere with federal enforcement of federal immigration laws.
After discussions with DHS, Governor Spitzer has altered his plan to propose a 3-tier system of identification. New York will produce an "enhanced driver's license" that will be secure like a passport. A second version of the license will meet all the federal standards of the Real ID Act. A third "license" will be available to undocumented immigrants, but cannot be used to drive out-of-state or for federal ID purposes
Reacting to this measure, the New York legislature has proposed two bills, S 6479 and A 9468 mandating that an individual demonstrate lawful status to obtain a driver's license. In addition, a number of New York County Clerks have announced that they will report any illegal alien trying to obtain a driver's license to federal immigration officials (read the article).
Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola has filed a lawsuit in Albany County courthouse against the New York DMV to try to prevent this measure. (Merola v. NY DMV filed 10/22/07) The complaint seeks injunctive relief pursuant to NY CLS CPLR Article 78, on the ground that the DMV would exceed its statutory authority by providing drivers licenses to illegal aliens.