NYCLU Praises Expansion of Immigrant Access to Driver’s Licenses

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
September 21, 2007 12:00 am

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Urges Governor Spitzer toResist Unjust Federal ID Law in New York


NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union, along withimmigrants’rights and labor organizations, applauds Governor EliotSpitzer’s decision to broaden immigrant access todriver’s licenses. Underguidelines announced today, New Yorkers can obtain a driver’slicense without regard to their immigration status.

“GovernorSpitzer’s decision to broaden immigrant access todriver’s licenses is a great victory for all NewYorkers,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of theNYCLU. “We applaud Governor Spitzer for his leadership inensuring that all New Yorkers are treated equally by their stategovernment and granted the same access to a state driver’slicense.”

In 2002, then-Governor George Pataki instituted a requirementthat alldriver’s license applicants provide a social security numberto prove their immigration status. Government officials estimate thatapproximately 500,000 New Yorkers lost their eligibility for adriver’s license due to this policy.

Today, Governor Spitzer announced a reversal of the Pataki-erapolicy.New Yorkers will no longer have to prove their immigration status whenapplying for a driver’s license. Instead, applicants will berequired to submit secure identity documents, such as valid foreignpassports.

The new policy will benefit millions of New York residents, ashundredsof thousands of motorists who used to be uninsured will be able toobtain a driver’s license and automobile insurance, ensuringsafer roads.

“The broadening of immigrant access todriver’s licenses will bring hundreds of thousands of NewYorkers out of the shadows and allow them to become full contributingmembers of our society and economy,” said Udi Ofer, FieldDirector and Legislative Counsel at the NYCLU. “We lookforward to continuing to work with the governor to prevent misguidedand unjust federal policies, such as those contained in the Real IDAct, from erasing the positive gains for immigrants made under the newstate policy announced today.”

The NYCLU is concerned that the federal government willattempt toforce New York to reverse the progress made by GovernorSpitzer’s decision to broaden immigrant access todriver’s licenses.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 in an attempt tofederalizestate driver’s licenses by imposing a broad array of regulations on howthey are issued and verified. Should the Real ID Act become law in NewYork, it will force the Department of Motor Vehicles into the businessof enforcing federal immigration law by again requiring that alldriver’s license applicants prove their lawful immigrationstatus.

States are not required to implement the Real ID Act, andseventeenstates have already passed legislation rejecting it. The NYCLU urgesGovernor Spitzer to protect the important progress made today andexpress his opposition to the federal Real ID Act.

More information on the Real ID Act can be found online at:

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