The growing controversy over the granting of drivers licenses to illegal immigrants has gotten a good deal of bipartisan opposition-with such disparate lumineries as Mike Bloomberg and Ed Koch questioning the wisdom of the Spitzer policy. The most forceful opposition, and some would say the most credible, has come from NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Kelly's concern is, of course, the issue of terrorism and the belief that the governor's initiative would make us all less safe. What is strange, however, is the way in which this morning's NY Times story frames the debate. Saying that the Spitzer policy "finds support," the paper does what seems to us to be an exhaustive search for "security" and "terrorism" experts who support what the governor wants to do.
What the paper doesn't do, and this is certainly a puzzle, is cite the views of Kelly-or anyone that anyone has ever heard of as a terrorism expert. Some professor at West Point is the best the paper could do? All of this is obviously designed to hawk the Times' own view on the issue. To wit: "But the governor’s policy is drawing support from some terrorism and security experts, who, like Mr. Spitzer, regard it as a way of bringing a hidden population into the open and ultimately making the system more secure, not to mention getting more drivers on the road licensed and insured."
If the Times had any really recognized terrorism expert on board for this piece, that person would have been the lead. Instead we get a headline that, when the full story is examined, doesn't even accurately lay out what the article reports. In fact, the story leans more heavily on those who oppose the governor's policy.
The key for us is the following observation: "The success of the policy, they say, will rest on the reliability of new technology that Mr. Spitzer wants installed in Department of Motor Vehicles offices to verify the authenticity of passports and other documents that the illegal immigrants will be required to submit when applying for licenses." Now we don't know about you, but does any one really want to rely on the personnel at the DMV for their security from terrorism?
What the critics get right is that it is possible to give illegals some form of secondary license-much as non-drivers get DMV ids for identification purposes-without corrupting the identification process for citizens. As one county clerk told the Times: "Mr. Merola added that his concerns would have been allayed if the governor had proposed creating a second class of driver’s license for the illegal immigrants. Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said his group has generally opposed giving licenses to people who cannot prove they are here legally. However, he said he would not necessarily object to a system like the one Mr. Spitzer is proposing, as long as the verification technology was adequate to prevent fraud."
The governor for his part, and as the former chief law enforcement officer of New York State, seems to be reacting quite emotionally to the justified criticism of his policy. This is not part of some right wing rant, it's about safety and putting the rights of citizens over those of people who have broken the law to get into the country.
So when Spitzer says, “We are not talking about letting more people into this country,” he said, “we are talking about being practical about those who are already here,” he is simply missing the point. As the NY Post editorial points out this morning, the only issue here is insuring the safety of New Yorkers.