Faced with vigorous opposition by Republicans and Democrats alike, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has abandoned his plan to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants a scant two months after his initial proposal. Governor Spitzer’s original idea was to abandon New York’s policy of requiring a social security number as a component of obtaining a driver’s license, in order to encourage illegal immigrants to become better trained drivers and obtain car insurance to protect the public.
The irony is that even immigrant rights advocates opposed the more recent version of the driver’s license plan, which would have created three different types of licenses, with immigrants entitled only to a license which could not be used for i.d purposes. They argued that illegal immigrants would “never come out of the shadows” to obtain the lesser form of driver’s license, and that authorities would take advantage of the new policy by reporting the presence of the undocumented immigrants to the Department of Homeland Security.
The driver’s license issue has become such a “political hot potato” for Democrats that New York Senator Hillary Clinton had tremendous difficulty responding to a question by Tim Russert at the most recent Democratic Presidential debate, and gave a convoluted answer regarding whether she supported Spitzer’s plan, causing some damage to her campaign. Interestingly, several months ago, Republican Presidential candidate John McCain was a co-sponsor with Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy of an immigration plan which would have provided a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants, but when he faced opposition from his supporters, he quickly abandoned his involvement and support of the immigrant rights issue.