Spitzer Angles for an Exit

by on October 31, 2007 · 6 comments

I imagine New York Governor Eliot Spitzer wishes he never stepped in the driver’s license issue. His original decision to use the New York driver’s license as a driver’s license rather than an immigration enforcement tool was correct. But it was met with caterwauls of derision by the virulent anti-immigrant crowd. He backed down and committed his state to the federal REAL ID Act, a national ID scheme that is basically in collapse.

In an interview on CNN this morning, I think he revealed how he intends to split the difference. Describing the two kinds of licenses he intends to have in the state beyond the passport card (for “Buffalo and along the Canadian border”), he said:

A Real ID license that people will get if they want to have perhaps an easier time at an airport. Another one if you already have a passport. You will not need to pay the extra fees, et cetera. So, two separate licenses. Both valid, both legitimate.

My read of that is that he will not encourage New Yorkers to get REAL ID-compliant licenses. Those will cost more and be more difficult to get, so perhaps the majority of New Yorkers won’t have them. They will use passports for those rare “U.S. government purposes.”

Though he blew it when he caved to the anti-immigrant groups, Governor Spitzer is right to suggest that New Yorkers wanting a REAL ID-compliant license should pay the full cost of getting one.

Especially when a significant number of New Yorkers decline to go the REAL ID route, the cost per card will be enormous and, ultimately, I doubt that New York will actually implement REAL ID. When the governor and state legislature discover the cost of what he’s committed them to, they’ll get together on declining to participate in the national ID system.

Update: Here’s an article roughly confirming my thesis about Spitzer’s strategy.

  • Ann

    It is legal to buy car insurance with a foreign drivers license in California. I would guess the same is true in NY. If this was Spitzer’s true goal, he would simply leave it up to the foreign consulates in New York to provide licenses for their citizens who could then purchase insurance. Then their would be no possibility of using the document to vote or get any benefit that is for US citizens.

  • Ann

    It is legal to buy car insurance with a foreign drivers license in California. I would guess the same is true in NY. If this was Spitzer’s true goal, he would simply leave it up to the foreign consulates in New York to provide licenses for their citizens who could then purchase insurance. Then their would be no possibility of using the document to vote or get any benefit that is for US citizens.

  • Richard

    >> virulent anti-immigrant crowd

    Why is it anyone who doesn’t think illegal immigrants should have the same benefits as legal citizens or immigrants is cast this way?

    I’m not against immigration and resent the broad brush you paint with that statement. If you want you maid, housekeeper or gardener to be legal then tell congress! But keep in mind, once they are legal you won’t be getting them for substandard wages and you will have to pay state and federal taxes!

    I think most people (probably you too) who carry on about illegal immigrants actually want to exploit the cheap labor (below minimum wage, no benefits and skipping out on the taxes owed).

    So I want them to become citizens or get worker visas and be recognized for their efforts and have protection. You want them to stay hidden and be paid scraps for doing the work no one else wants to do.

    Believe it or not there is a real difference between a legal immigrant and an illegal immigrant! Real immigrants work very hard for their citizenship and you cheapen all of their efforts by lumping all of them together.

  • Richard

    >> virulent anti-immigrant crowd

    Why is it anyone who doesn’t think illegal immigrants should have the same benefits as legal citizens or immigrants is cast this way?

    I’m not against immigration and resent the broad brush you paint with that statement. If you want you maid, housekeeper or gardener to be legal then tell congress! But keep in mind, once they are legal you won’t be getting them for substandard wages and you will have to pay state and federal taxes!

    I think most people (probably you too) who carry on about illegal immigrants actually want to exploit the cheap labor (below minimum wage, no benefits and skipping out on the taxes owed).

    So I want them to become citizens or get worker visas and be recognized for their efforts and have protection. You want them to stay hidden and be paid scraps for doing the work no one else wants to do.

    Believe it or not there is a real difference between a legal immigrant and an illegal immigrant! Real immigrants work very hard for their citizenship and you cheapen all of their efforts by lumping all of them together.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    You may be an exception, Richard, but most people who rail against illegal immigration do not actually want there to be higher rates of legal immigration. They’re just anti-immigrant.

    The debate in the Congress fit that mold exactly: legal immigration was shrunk by amendment and ANY path to citizenship for people illegally in this country – including provisions for PENALIZING illegal immigrants before they could get legal status – was branded as “amnesty.” Your ‘anti-illegal-immigrant’ colleagues just don’t want immigrants here.

    Nice try with the ad hominem, Richard, but I don’t have a maid, housekeeper, or gardener. I would like to have more laborers in this country to drive prices down for American consumers (while earning more money than they could in their home countries). That’s just free markets growing the pie for everyone.

    People who pay attention to these issues know that illegal status makes it *easier* to exploit people. Legal immigrants are in a much better position to demand better wages and working conditions.

    So dry your crocodile tears and look in the mirror, Richard. I think you’ll see an opponent of immigration. You’re welcome to prove me wrong by arguing for increased levels of legal immigration and some realistic plan for resolving the legal status of the millions of immigrants that are here.

    I don’t buy your argument that the nobility of the legal immigrant must be preserved. Just like illegal immigrants, they want to be here and work and pursue the American dream. They’re not any more noble for being lucky enough to get one of the few slots for legal immigration and navigating our immigration bureaucracy.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    You may be an exception, Richard, but most people who rail against illegal immigration do not actually want there to be higher rates of legal immigration. They’re just anti-immigrant.

    The debate in the Congress fit that mold exactly: legal immigration was shrunk by amendment and ANY path to citizenship for people illegally in this country – including provisions for PENALIZING illegal immigrants before they could get legal status – was branded as “amnesty.” Your ‘anti-illegal-immigrant’ colleagues just don’t want immigrants here.

    Nice try with the ad hominem, Richard, but I don’t have a maid, housekeeper, or gardener. I would like to have more laborers in this country to drive prices down for American consumers (while earning more money than they could in their home countries). That’s just free markets growing the pie for everyone.

    People who pay attention to these issues know that illegal status makes it *easier* to exploit people. Legal immigrants are in a much better position to demand better wages and working conditions.

    So dry your crocodile tears and look in the mirror, Richard. I think you’ll see an opponent of immigration. You’re welcome to prove me wrong by arguing for increased levels of legal immigration and some realistic plan for resolving the legal status of the millions of immigrants that are here.

    I don’t buy your argument that the nobility of the legal immigrant must be preserved. Just like illegal immigrants, they want to be here and work and pursue the American dream. They’re not any more noble for being lucky enough to get one of the few slots for legal immigration and navigating our immigration bureaucracy.

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