If you're not from New York state, you may not be familiar with this issue. If you ARE from NYS, you can't help but know about it.
From a September 21, 2007 press release by the governor:
"Governor Eliot Spitzer and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner David Swarts today announced an administrative policy change that will give all New Yorkers the opportunity to apply for state driver licenses without regard to immigration status. Tied to the policy change, the Governor and Commissioner also announced plans to implement a new regime of anti-fraud measures to increase the security of the licensing system as a new population of New Yorkers comes into the system."
What this means is that Spitzer’s new DMV procedures will allow illegal immigrants to get driver licenses, which would, among other things, increase their employment opportunities. This has set off a firestorm of criticism, some of which has been captured here.
Basically, the reductivist positions are that those opposing the measure are racist xenophobes who want to keep marginalizing the immigrant population, while those supporting the proposal are not only weakening a well-recognized form of identification, but making the country safe for terrorists.
One religious collective, ARISE, sent out this notice this week:
Gov. Spitzer's rule change around immigrant access to a New York State Driver's License has, as I am sure you have heard, generated a political firestorm and a flood of anti-immigrant rhetorical venom.
ARISE clergy made public statements supporting Gov. Spitzer on moral, religious, legal, security, and economic grounds at a press event last Monday, October 1, in Albany, and received pretty good coverage, but since then the anti-Spitzer forces have been very successful getting their anti-immigrant message into the headlines with heated but unfounded claims about security, legality, and terrorism.
To provide a measured and thoughtful reply, and to amplify rational and humane and fair messages about the overheated driver's license controversy, ARISE is participating in two events:
1. PRAYER VIGIL FOR FRANK MEROLA, leading spokesperson for county clerks opposing Spitzer's rule change.
Friday, Oct 12, 10:30am
Rensselaer County Clerk's Office
Across from Emma Willard statue, near 2nd & Congress in downtown Troy
This event is co-sponsored by NY State Labor Religion Coalition, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Emmaus House, Capital District Worker Center, and ARISE (list in formation).
2. STATE PRESS CONFERENCE for allies supporting the driver's license rule change: good for public safety, good for homeland security, good for legal process, and good for working families in NYS
Monday, Oct 15, 12 noon
LCA Press Room, 130 Legislative Office Building
A prayer vigil: love that tactic.
But here's the thing: I see both sides. Changing the driver's ID may be problematic, especially when the state is trying to make the case to the federal government that the driver's ID is as good as a passport when going to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. On the other hand, allowing people a better chance to earn a living wage is a concern for me.
So what do YOU think?
(Hmm, today is the traditional Columbus Day.)
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