New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is so intent on doing good without first thinking things through that it’s inevitable he will do incredible harm. He’s clearly on the way with his recent move to dish out driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
Maybe, of course, he was motivated less by charitable impulse than political opportunism, for, of course, labor unions and immigration groups are already offering up hand-burning applause.
But let’s take him at his word and figure his concern is that lots of illegal immigrants need to drive to get to work and elsewhere and that many are doing it illegally. Illegal drivers are five times more likely to have fatal accidents than legal drivers, his administration says, and, what’s more, the illegal immigrants don’t have insurance for their cars, driving up the cost of premiums.
Through this new policy achieved through executive dictate, Spitzer says, you can bring illegal immigrants out of hiding while also obtaining legislation establishing a state residency requirement and thereby keeping illegal immigrants from flocking to New York for licenses denied them in all but eight other states.
If Spitzer and his advisers stopped to reflect for a moment, they’d realize that drivers aren’t mostly more dangerous because they lack licenses but because of the reasons they were denied licenses in the first place. It might also occur to them that large numbers of the illegal immigrants might figure that buying auto insurance on their low wages isn’t exactly the happiest state of affairs they can imagine if they’ve managed to avoid the purchase in the past.
For those who do want the license — a great enabler in all kinds of pursuits — there will obviously be ways to fool the state about their residency. Let’s remember that illegal immigrants are practiced in such deception. The chance is that New York will become a magnet for still more illegal immigrants than the half-million or so who live there now, and if those of us in other states don’t mind that so much, we do have cause to care about a policy that was once adopted and then rejected in another huge state, California.
For, as the father of someone killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center has pointed out, most of the hijackers were aided in their evil by driver’s licenses, just as future terrorists could be aided in their murderous mayhem by the Spitzer policy. Hey, it’s illegitimate to use that argument, Spitzer reportedly told reporters, and maybe he thinks it similarly unfair to note that policies showering illegal immigrants with various benefits can have other adverse consequence for people in the country legally.
If Spitzer really wants the roads safer, the auto insurance issue less a headache and to improve the lives of the citizens of his state, he should join in discouraging illegal immigration in every decent way he can. It’s not a draconian idea, but a benevolent one, for many of the illegal immigrants are exploited here. Instead of scoffing at federal law, Spitzer ought to respect it.
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com