Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fact and Fiction in Drivers License Debate

Why are certain county clerks in NY vowing to disobey Governor Spitzer’s law allowing undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses? Like all opposition to illegal immigration, it’s a matter of firm principle: illegal immigrants did not follow our laws and thus came here illegally!

Other county and state officials are jumping on the bandwagon because they know that the vast majority of Americans are extremely ill-informed and quite likely bigoted in their view of immigrants (legal or illegal) and the potential of pandering to that ignorance is limitless.

State Senator James Seward, Assemblyman Pete Lopez, County Clerk Indica Jaycox, Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Van Wormer and Sheriff John Bates lined up at a recent press conference to issue the standard canned condemnations of illegal immigrants. Are there so many illegal immigrants in Schoharie County that all of our officials and representatives must speak out in this manner? Maybe it's just election-year politics. Nothin' gets the voters excited like some good old fashioned nativist fear-mongering.

Despite the hue and cry over the issue, there are good reasons for the law and the facts support it. Here are some examples of the widespread distortions of reality on this issue.

“This plan makes it easier, far easier, for driver’s licenses to fall into the wrong hands, like those of potential terrorists,” said Kathleen Marchione, the Saratoga County clerk who is the president of the New York State Association of County Clerks.

Yes, but the 9/11 hi-jackers did not need drivers licenses to board planes on 9/11. They were here on visas and could have gotten on the planes using their passports, which all of them had. If anything, having official drivers licenses will allow potential terrorists to be tracked bringing them out of the shadows, if they’re dumb enough to get one and use it. The claim that this law makes us more vulnerable to terrorism is simply not true. Further, despite the concerns of a few county clerks across the state, the 9/11 commission did not recommend denying licenses to unauthorized immigrants.

But instead of discussion based on facts, this is what you get from Republicans in the age of Bush and the Patriot Act:

Senator Vincent L. Leibell, an upstate Republican, declared that under the proposal, Osama bin Laden could obtain a driver’s license in New York.

As for the benefits of the law, statewide insurance costs could drop by as much as $120 million dollars a year (only about 15 dollars per person). However, if an undocumented immigrant crashes into you or your car, whether or not they have auto insurance could determine whether or not you actually see any money for your injuries or property damage.

There’s also the argument that by issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants they will be forced to take road tests and written tests which will make roads safer. In all fairness, there’s been no research demonstrating that this will in fact make roads safer. But I’d personally wager that we'd all benefit by having all drivers taking the time to learn the rules of the road before they get behind the wheel. Maybe a provision that undocumented immigrants take drivers ed or defensive driving courses before getting the license would help to ensure that this actually does increase safety.

Regardless of the facts surrounding this issue, there’s simply way too much noise. We have a political climate that thrives on fear and suspicion, and this just gives politicians a license to pander. A recent Siena Poll shows that over 70 percent of New Yorkers oppose this law. Oh well, according to polls, half of America still believes America actually found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.


The Mayor said...

Sean (or whatever your name is), I can’t figure out if you are deliberately baiting, looking for a confrontation, or if you genuinely believe what you have written here.
Your title is “Fact and Fiction…”, here is my take on this, and you have way more fiction than fact:
(your) paragraph 1 – FACT
paragraph 2 - arrogant LUNACY ; not worthy of discussion.
paragraph 3 - the statement is fact, the question is ABSURD
paragraph 4- FICTION
paragraph 5- Kathleen Marchione’s quote is a FACT. If there are indeed “wrong hands” for drivers’ licenses to “fall into”, Spitzer’s plan undeniably makes it easier for that to happen, and this is not only an immigration issue. Suppose a habitual, convicted drunk driver has permanently lost his license to drive. He is reluctant to drive because even a simple “road check” for expired inspection or studded tires in summer or whatever, could land him in jail. So he assumes the identity of an “undocumented alien”, goes to Spitzer’s DMV, has his picture taken and gets another license. It will have his newly assumed name, address and his photo. No SS number, and no way to cross reference to his true identity. He is good to go! He can get past any of the simple stuff now, so he can drive again, and even if he gets a traffic ticket, there is no way to connect him to his true identity, so he just pays his fine. If he loses that license, nothing prevents him from having another one.
Paragraph 6 – Regarding 911 hijackers: First statement, unsubstantiated fact. Yes, 13 drivers licenses were used 2 of which were duplicates. All others were “legal”, that is, not forged, but 7 of them were obtained illegally, by making false statements on the applications.
I submit that since it was important enough to the hijackers to lie and produce false residency documents in order to obtain these licenses, Spitzer simply GIVING them the licenses would have made their evil plan easier, and therefore, made American Citizens less safe. It is that simple. While the 9/11 Commission did not endorse a national identification card per se, it did recommend federal standards for driver’s licenses. This is FACT, and although it did not recommend denying licenses to illegal aliens, neither did it recommend allowing it. It simply did not specifically address that issue other than asking for FEDERAL standards.
Paragraph 8 – No doubt, if Osama bin Laden were in New York State, under an assumed name, he could obtain a license under Spitzer’s plan much more easily than he could today. He just has to say that he does not have a current visa…

As for the benefits of the law, if all you can say is that our insurance cost might go down a little, that idea is just lame, and certainly not worth the increased risk. If ANY person crashes into your car, you say, “whether or not they have auto insurance could determine whether or not you actually see any money for your injuries or property damage.” The fact is, if YOU have insurance in New York State, then you have “uninsured motorist” coverage already, because it is mandatory. Sure, you have no one to sue if the other driver has no assets and no insurance, but what does having a Driver's License have to do with having insurance? NOTHING!
You give NO FACTS to support your side of this discussion, and you IGNORE the underlying reason Spitzer has proposed this idea from the very beginning, which is also the BIGEST reason the, as you describe them: “vast majority of Americans (who) are extremely ill-informed and quite likely bigoted in their view of immigrants” oppose this insane idea. You already know why, IT IS ABOUT VOTES!! Surprise, surprise!! The only thing these “ILLEGAL ALIENS” will need to be able vote in a general election is a driver’s license. They will also have to tell a little lie, but do you think that will be difficult for them given the fact that their very presence in this country is based on telling lies!
Spitzer, and all the other liberals, including YOU know where these votes will go. That is what it is all about, plain and simple.
I could go on. Already, some banks in states other than NY are refusing to give banking accounts to students from New York State who do not have a passport, because their driver’s license is perceived as worthless for purposes of identification, and the “Spitzer Plan” is not even in effect yet.
This whole idea is absurd, and Eliot is so arrogant, he thinks he will be able to follow through with it. What an ass.

Sean Thomaston said...

Am I just baiting or writing what I believe? Is the prospect of someone who thinks differently and has different opinions that hard for you to imagine?

Okay let me see if I understand you, Spitzer’s plan is really just a ploy to allow a tiny percentage of illegal immigrants to vote; there are estimated to be a little less than 500,000 undocumented immigrants in New York State, that’s about 2.5% of NY’s population. A recent poll shows that 70% of New Yorkers oppose this plan! So Spitzer is going to risk pissing off and alienating 70% of NY’s voters in order to get 2.5% of the state’s population into the polls to vote for Democrats (as you assume)? This would not be a wise political maneuver and I highly doubt that it is the governor’s intention.

Politically speaking, this has been a misstep for the Governor, and I think what is fueling the outrage is people trying to stir up hysteria about homeland security and illegal immigrants voting. Arguably, there is much more of a political motivation on the opposition side.

For the record, I don’t really support this plan as much as I oppose the hysteria that it has created. As far as I’m concerned, illegal immigrants are here and they are here to stay, whether you like it or not. Eventually, Americans will have to stop throwing the Tom Tancredo tantrum and wake up to this fact. Having millions of people living in the shadows is both dangerous to our security and inhumane.

As far as my response to the Marchione statement, it requires no further clarification. But I will say this, the hi-jackers could have boarded the planes with or without licenses. If they actually did use them (legal or illegal ones) it is completely irrelevant!

Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations recently came out and backed Spitzer’s plan – nevermind- nobody listens to this guy anyway, right!

As far as Schoharie County officials lining up to oppose this plan, they can say and do whatever they want. But it’s all just pandering. The vast majority of New Yorkers have no idea what the facts are and all they know is that they don’t like immigrants because they’re brains are rotting from watching too much Fox News and Lou Dobbs.

As far as the benefits to New Yorkers, you focused on the weakest point (lower insurance rates). But you suggest the benefits aren’t worth the risk. Therefore, we won’t agree because I don’t see the same risk that you see. I’m going by the 9/11 commission report, Governor Spitzer and people like Richard Clarke who have backed the plan. If Indica Jaycox or Kathy Marchione or some clerk from Podunk County say’s otherwise, fine, but I’m going to give more weight to the national security experts.

If someone crashes into my car OR me while I’m walking or bicycling, it sure would be nice to know that that person has insurance and can be held liable for any injuries sustained. If that’s “lame” of me, oh well.

“What does having a Driver's License have to do with having insurance? NOTHING!”

No, simply having a drivers’ license doesn’t guarantee that one will have insurance as well. But if someone is going to bother to get a license in the first place so that they can drive legally (they obviously want to have one) there’s a good chance they are going to get insurance so that they don’t lose the license. But I’ve got to remember, we’re dealing with illegal immigrants here, who as you intimate have no problem breaking our laws and lying to get what they want. Would it even bother you if I were to point out how disgustingly racist that is? I’ll let you think about it.

Anyway, I’ve got to call Homeland Security, I think Osama bin Laden cut me off in a Miata yesterday.

Also, thank you in advance for any proofreading services that you provide me.


The Mayor said...

Sean, I can see that this exchange is pointless. You again provide neither further facts, nor intelligent rebuttal. Yet another counterpoint seems redundant. Follow your "experts" (Richard Clarke, I guess).
Spitzer's ambitions, by the way, do not stop in Albany, so you need think beyond Albany when evaluating his motivations.
The vast majority of New Yorker's brains are rotting? Giving illegals licenses will "get them out of the shadows"? Wow good points...(and you were the first to be sarcastic in this thread, not me) Yes, insurance is a good thing, I can agree with you on that. Are we talking about insurance here now?
And you resort to insults, call me a racist because I say Illegals are breaking laws Duh! Could that be how they got the description "illegal"? Play the race card when all else fails, Sean. Wow, now you sound like Jessie and Al...and I thank you in advance for not whining about that comment, you deserve it AND the sarcasm, as it is repayment in kind.

The Mayor said...

Hey! There has been some advancement in this area. Basically, Eliot has bought into a Bush administration plan, (on a Saturday even!) to create a new generation of super-secure driver's licenses for U.S. citizens which will also allow illegal immigrants to get a version. New York is the fourth state to reach this agreement with the Feds. There will be three different versions, here is the press release
As long as the third version of this license can not be used as part of the "voter identification" process, I don't see how it can hurt anything...gee...maybe Mr. Spitzer is learning that a bit of compromise is way more effective than a "steam-roller" stuck in the mud...