There is an old expression: When your feet are put to the fire, you will see the light.
On the issue of driver's licenses for illegal aliens, Gov. Spitzer's feet have been held to the fire. He has now seen the light, and has surrendered to the people’s will.
As we have learned, the governor reached out to Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, who threw him a lifeline. The governor now plans to authorize three different driver's licenses.
The license most New Yorkers will apply for will be accepted by the federal government for boarding airplanes. A so-called enhanced license will allow New Yorkers to cross the Canadian border without a passport. The third classification will be primarily for illegal aliens. It can also be given to others who don’t want to pay the higher fee required for the so-called federally-approved licenses (the other two), or who aren’t eligible because they are unable to produce a verifiable Social Security number.
Instead of admitting he lost the battle he launched and eating crow, the governor claims, “It is a powerful example of the federal government and New York State working together in the interest of national security. It is a win for our economy. And it is a major step forward for our security.” The governor would have helped himself had he admitted defeat and acknowledged the public’s opposition to his plan.
My own position is that this result is an acceptable compromise, intended to allow the governor to save some face — comparable to the thin slice we see when the new moon rises.
Few illegal aliens will apply for a license that will now read “Not For U.S. Government Purposes,” which will not be recognized for boarding an airplane. Who, expecting increased future efforts to deport illegal aliens back to their home countries, will step forward to provide his or her current home address to the authorities?
I am not an expert on immigration law. I was surprised to learn that aliens who enter the U.S. lawfully and overstay their visas are not violating any criminal statute. They are violating Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), regulations. Those crossing the U.S. borders and entering without permission are violating a criminal statute.
I believe the law should be amended so as to make criminally illegal the act of an individual knowingly and deliberately overstaying their visa.
Whether or not they are prosecuted is a discretionary matter, not to be exercised should they voluntarily agree to leave the U.S. There should be provisions to report to ICE reasons for overstaying their stay so as to avoid criminal penalties. In my opinion, the goal should be to have the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in the country ultimately identified and returned to their home lands.
We should offer illegal aliens free transportation back and consider offering them a $500 bonus, payable in their home country at the U.S. embassy. Such a bonus has been successful in getting some people to surrender their guns.
It is estimated that roughly half of the illegal aliens are those who have violated or overstayed their visas. No one is suggesting that illegal aliens be rounded up and put on buses and trains by ICE. But many, including me, believe that illegal aliens in large numbers will go home on their own if they know there will be no jobs available here for them.
The way to assure that is to put employers who are knowingly hiring illegal aliens in prison. I am suggesting on the first occasion, there be a $500 fine; on the second, a mandatory 30 days in jail; on the third, a mandatory six months in jail.
Spitzer has been deserted and castigated by former allies who supported his efforts to provide a driver's license for illegal aliens that would have allowed them to board airplanes. Who can blame these advocates who have never flinched from acknowledging their ultimate goal — amnesty, the legalization of illegal aliens, and a “path to citizenship.”
Those heretofore allies of the governor now denouncing him are Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition; Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and I am sure a host of others, not yet interviewed by The New York Times which may itself be distressed with the governor’s turnaround, having supported his original proposal.
What I find most amazing is the great political victories that can be achieved by an enraged American public.
First, the country defeated the efforts of President Bush, and Sens. McCain and Kennedy, to force an amnesty bill through the Congress. Now the people of the State of New York achieved another victory, forcing Spitzer to back down on his effort to provide illegal aliens with unrestricted driver's licenses. While I agree with Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff, who four times in his statement at the joint press conference with the governor made clear his philosophical opposition to providing illegal aliens with drivers licenses, saying, “I don’t endorse giving licenses to people who are not here legally, but federal law does allow states to make that choice,” I accept the compromise.
Meanwhile, imagine what a political civic paradise we would have if New York had civic rights that Californians now enjoy, e.g., Referenda (the right to vote on statutes passed by the legislature); Initiative (the right to adopt legislation in an election); and the right of recall (to end the term of an elected public official before its normal expiration). Imagine what we could do with the Albany Senate and Assembly, which some experts call the most dysfunctional legislature in the nation.
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