Associated Press - NY Democratic Congressman Hall Breaks With Spitzer on Licenses
By DEVLIN BARRETT
A New York Democratic congressman broke with Gov. Eliot Spitzer Wednesday on the debate over driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, while a Long Island Republican launched a bid to outlaw the governor's plan.
Freshman Democrat John Hall, who represents a historically Republican district in the Hudson Valley, said he does not support the governor's plan.
"I'm concerned that making licenses available to illegal immigrants could present security risks, make New York a magnet state for illegal immigrants by creating an incentive for more undocumented individuals to come to New York, and that the proposal would create a bureaucratic, confusing system," Hall said in a statement after he was criticized on the issue by national Republicans.
New York's congressional Democrats have largely sought to stay out of the heated fight in Albany over the Democratic governor's plan to create three types of driver's licenses _ but they're finding that increasingly hard to do, particularly since Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's noncommittal answers on the subject have drawn national attention.
Spitzer struck a deal with federal homeland security officials last month to create three New York State driver's licenses: one as secure as a U.S. passport for crossing the Canadian border, another for boarding airplanes, and a third that will not be valid federal identification but will be available to illegal immigrants and others for driving.
The governor said the new approach would make New York safer from terrorists and uninsured motorists, by bringing illegal immigrants into a system where they have to get car insurance.
Critics charge it will make New York and the country less safe by distributing government identification to as many as a million illegal immigrants in the state.
Another Empire State congressman, Long Island Republican Peter King, said Wednesday he and a Texas lawmaker would offer legislation barring any state from issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens _ another sign the debate has spread far beyond New York.
Oddly, the first mention of King's bill came not from him but from GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani at a campaign event.
Giuliani supports King's measure, and has criticized Democratic front-runner and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton over the issue.
Clinton has said she supports governors like Spitzer who try to address the national problem of immigration, but has refused to say whether she supports or opposes the actual plan offered by Spitzer.
Though King's bill is already part of the presidential contest, the lawmaker insisted it's not a partisan punch at Clinton.
"This is good politics and good government," said King. "Driver's licenses and illegal immigration will last at least until the next election. This goes far beyond Senator Clinton."
New York's other senator, Democrat Charles Schumer, has also avoided taking a position on the license plan.