Newsday - King Pushes Bill to Bar Licenses for Undocumented

News Article

By:  Pete King
Date: Nov. 7, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

Newsday - King Pushes Bill to Bar Licenses for Undocumented


Tossing a hot potato to the Democrats at the urging of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, Rep. Peter King said he would introduce legislation that would bar Gov. Eliot Spitzer from offering driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

"What Eliot Spitzer is doing in New York highlights to me how dangerous this is and why we have to stop it," said King (R-Seaford).

King's gambit could be a boost for Giuliani, who urged King and Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions yesterday to introduce the legislation. But it could also remind the very conservative voters Giuliani is courting that his campaign positions on immigration and other issues -- including his previous support for gun control -- have shifted since he was New York mayor from 1994 to 2001.

In 1997, Giuliani sued to prevent the federal government's requiring city employees to report the undocumented who sought city services, such as medical care, welfare and public schools. He argued then that the law infringed on states' rights, and would "create chaos in New York City."

After a judge ruled against him, Giuliani vowed to interpret the ruling narrowly, saying, "We can remind people that no one is required to turn in the names of illegal aliens."

Wednesday a Clinton campaign spokesman, Isaac Baker, said: "Given Rudy Giuliani's past support for sanctuary cities, his comments today are particularly ironic."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has struggled to clarify her position on licensing the undocumented since an Oct. 30 debate when she said it could help make New York's roadways safer, but later said she did not mean to endorse Spitzer's plan.

Hearing that, several of her Democratic rivals pounced.

"Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in about two minutes," former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said at the Democratic candidates' debate.

King's legislation would bar states from issuing licenses to people who lack a Social Security number. But several states have indicated unwilliness to adopt a national licensing standard. Since Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to establish national standards for driver's licenses, 17 states -- New York is not among them -- have passed legislation opposing its provisions.

Under an agreement announced Oct. 27 by Spitzer and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, New York will issue three separate licenses -- two with federal weight.

An "Enhanced" license would allow residents of northern counties to cross into Canada without a passport. A second federally approved license would allow the bearer to board aircraft.

A less-secure third license, available to both undocumented immigrants and lawful residents, would be for driving and ID but "not for U.S. government purposes."

Spitzer spokewoman Christine Anderson criticized King's proposal as meddling. "The federal government should spend its time fixing the failed national immigration policy," she wrote in an e-mail statement.

King appeared to relish the prospect of aiding Giuliani by throwing an obstacle in Clinton's path. "Yes, I believe this will help politically because I think this is what the American people want," King said. "I guess this is a case of two great minds working alike -- me and Rudy Giuliani."

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