The recent presidential debate focusing on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants reminded me that it has been more than ten years since I recommended to President Clinton that states be prohibited from issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. It was Hillary Clinton, working with White House aide George Stephanopoulos, who killed this proposal. Her waffling in the most recent Democratic debate obscures her consistent opposition to the proposal to ban such licenses.
On March 16, 1995, I wrote a memo to President Clinton saying that we should “make states issue drivers licenses [to immigrants] that expire when [their] visas do.” Noting that half of the nation’s illegal aliens had evaded the system by overstaying their visas, I suggested that the computers at the various state motor vehicle departments be interfaced with the INS and FBI computers in order to identify illegal immigrants and wanted terrorists. I proposed a system providing for “automatic referral from motor-vehile agencies to the INS” for deportation when routine traffic stops revealed drivers without licenses who were here illegally.
The proposal was killed by a combination of opposition from Hillary Clinton and George Stephanopoulos. In his book, "All Too Human," Stephanopoulos says that my proposal would have led to racial profiling of Latinos and cites that as the reason for her opposition.
Hillary Clinton opposed my proposal and was part of the coalition that killed the idea.
As a Senator, Hillary also voted against a ban on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. She claimed that her vote was simply a protest against the policy of the Republican Senate majority in forcing a vote on an immigration package containing the ban without allowing a separate vote on the license proposal. But her opposition in 1995 obviously continued when the issue came up for a vote while she was in the Senate.
Hillary is wrong. We need to be able to find illegal immigrants and the best way to find them is to deny them drivers licenses. Particularly since all the 9-11 hijackers came here legally, we need to be able to find those who overstay their visas and target them for deportation. Such a policy would have led to the deportation of nine of the nineteen 9-11 hijackers, all of whose visas had expired. Not letting them have a license is the best way to find out who they are.
To read a more contemporary history of these events, see page 110-111 of Eileen McGann’s and my book "Because He Could" about President Clinton.
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