Skip to comments.Immigrants Face Loss of Licenses in ID Crackdown
Posted on 08/18/2004 9:20:22 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
Legislatures across the country have been wrestling publicly with a hot-button issue: whether to make it harder or easier for illegal immigrants to be licensed as drivers. The struggle to reconcile public security, road safety and the reality of millions of illegal immigrant workers has led to fierce disagreement and widely different laws - even as the 9/11 commission has urged the adoption of national standards.
In New York, home to an estimated 500,000 of the nation's 10 million illegal immigrants, there has been little public debate. But behind the scenes, officials at the State Department of Motor Vehicles have begun a crackdown on license fraud that will take away the driver's licenses of as many as 200,000 immigrants who cannot prove that they are here legally.
There was scant reaction in January when the state started mailing out the first of a half-million letters threatening to suspend the licenses of drivers whose Social Security numbers did not match federal records. Fear and protest spread in places like Westchester County and Staten Island as the letters reached longtime immigrant drivers who depend on their cars to work as landscapers, construction workers or housecleaners.
And the outcry grew as immigrant advocates learned of cases in which bewildered immigrants who responded in person to motor vehicle offices had their licenses confiscated on the spot for lack of a Social Security number.
Today the protests, and explanations by the crackdown's authors, will be presented in Manhattan at the first public hearing on the policy, by the State Assembly's Transportation Committee.
It is late in the process: though only about 600 licenses have been suspended so far, state officials said that in November, a second wave of notices would begin suspending the licenses of those who have not responded, at the rate of 4,000 a day.
State officials say 250,000 licenses are in line to be suspended, and immigrant advocates estimate that 200,000 of these are held by immigrants unable to satisfy the state's requirement.
State officials say they are not aiming the effort at immigrants, just seizing on new technology to enforce an old law - a 1995 requirement that the state collect the Social Security numbers of all driver's license applicants. That measure was added in many states to improve child-support enforcement, as part of the nation's welfare overhaul. But New York is the only state where motor vehicle officials are using enhanced computer abilities to verify all the Social Security numbers collected over the years.
The results have been eye-opening, Raymond P. Martinez, the state motor vehicles commissioner, said in an interview. "
The public is going to be shocked when they find out how many people's Social Security numbers were used by other people unbeknownst to them," he said, putting the figure at more than 100,000, including one number that was used by 57 people.
Among those whose licenses have already been suspended are United States citizens who were hiding criminal driving records behind multiple identities, he said. And in an era of terror alerts, when driver's licenses are used to enter buildings, he added, "We now have the ability to verify who is who."
But critics say the enforcement will fall mainly on illegal immigrants who are hard-working members of society - and to local D.M.V. clerks with no understanding of complicated immigration laws.
"Nobody has considered the bureaucratic nightmare that they're creating," said Margaret Stock, an associate professor of national security law at the United States Military Academy at West Point, who is writing a paper on the driver's license issue. "It's actually harmful to national security to deny licenses to people on the basis of immigration status."
Ms. Stock, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the military police of the Army Reserves, said there was a better chance of tracking a terrorist with a driver's license than one without. Moreover, she said, "immigration status is a moving target - someone legal today can be illegal tomorrow and someone illegal today can be legal tomorrow," so motor vehicle offices can end up issuing and denying licenses to the wrong people.
Yet thousands of illegal immigrants denied driver's licenses will continue to drive, she said, and probably add to the number of hit-and-run accidents and uninsured drivers already on the road.
The real problem, she said, is that since 9/11, officials have been trying to turn the driver's license into "a backdoor national identity card." But, she added, "driver's licenses are really about road safety."
Because of the heightened fear of detention or deportation these days, it remains uncertain whether illegal immigrants will come forward to testify at today's hearing at 250 Broadway, said Gouri Sadwhani, executive director of the New York Civic Participation Project, an immigrant and labor organizing group. But two people whose licenses were abruptly seized by a motor vehicle clerk shared their accounts with a reporter on the condition that only their first names be published.
Luis, 34, a construction worker who has long been employed by a Connecticut subcontractor building multimillion-dollar homes in places like Greenwich, said he was so alarmed by the letter he received in January that he drove from his home in Port Chester, N.Y., to D.M.V. headquarters in Albany.
Trying to prove his identity, he presented his taxpayer ID number, credit card, rent receipts, utility bills and car insurance. But he said a clerk who demanded a Social Security number took his license and refused to return it. "I started pleading," he recalled. "I said I need my license - I need my license to work, I need my license to support my family and I need my license to live," he recalled.
But after threatening him with detention for putting the wrong number on his application years ago - probably his tax ID number, he said - the clerk walked away. State motor vehicle officials said that they could not discuss the case without Luis's full name.
"It's like the D.M.V. has cut off my arms and legs," he said last week in the immaculate apartment that he, his wife and their 3-year-old son shared with three other immigrants from Ecuador. His earnings, which must support two children left with grandparents in Ecuador, as well as his family here, typically ran $20,000 to $25,000 a year, he said. But they have dwindled since his boss learned that he had lost his license.
Still, Luis said, there is no going back. In Ecuador, he and his wife were so desperate for work to support their children that they left them behind and walked much of the way to the United States.
And he is still driving. He carefully steered his old minivan past the flashing lights of a parked police car on a rain-slicked street in Port Chester on Friday evening, as he worried aloud that his insurance would soon be canceled.
But Gloria, a Colombian woman who has lived in Queens since 1991, said she had not driven since the January day when her license was confiscated at the Whitestone motor vehicle office. She had been a licensed driver for 11 years, she said, selling Mary Kay cosmetics from her car to help support her daughter, an American citizen by birth, while working weekends as a baby-sitter for a family of lawyers living on Sutton Place in Manhattan.
"I feel humiliated because I think there's no reason to take it from me," she said. "I was a good driver; I never got a ticket for a red light or passed a stop sign. I always had insurance."
Like many immigrants in what some call a gray zone of legality, she has a petition for a green card pending, sponsored by her 76-year-old mother, now a lawful permanent resident. But under present immigration rules and backlogs, family sponsorship can take many years to bridge the gap between citizens and unlawful immigrants in the same family. Meanwhile, Gloria has no way to fulfill the state's requirements to get back her license.
The hardest part has not only been the loss of earnings - about $1,000 a month in cosmetic sales - but the effect on her mother and her daughter, now 12, she said. Only last week, her mother, who is frail and speaks no English, begged her to accompany her on a flight to Florida to visit relatives. But without a driver's license as a photo ID, it was too risky.
"My daughter was crying and saying please don't go," Gloria said. "She feels so afraid about what happened to me now."
That person whose number was used by so many people may have a much better retirement than he thought.
I've been a multiple lines insurance agent for 35 years, and it is my belief almost 100% of illegal immigrants drive without insurance.
They should have been arrested on the spot.
I tried, but I can't read more than 1 P of the NYT and want to throw my laptop out the window...Communist freaking bastards.
They blatantly subvert our country's interests at every turn...it's been that way for over a 1/2 dozen decades. Where is the Media's BBB? I want to file a fraud complaint...
It looks like this reporter forgot to interview the victims who had their social security numbers stolen from them by these thieves. I imagine they have some stories to tell.
The New York Times is a very sensitive paper. That's what they think "immigrants" are. Isn't that sweet?
This December the federal government is suppose to have its social security number validation system, SSNVS, up and running on-line.
Employers will have no excuse. Citizens will be able to ask businesses, did you validate your employees' SSNs? Is it legal for them to work in the U.S.? Are they violating ID fraud laws, as well as immigration laws, with their stolen / phony SSNs?
State agencies will be able to make instant validations, also.
It's been 18 years in the making (since the 1986 immigration "reform" law).
ILLEGAL alien advocates are "troubled." Look for another 18 years of delays -- but if it actually is implemented then we citizens will be able to express our opinions where it counts, in the pocket book.
Like many immigrants in what some call a gray zone of legality, she has a petition for a green card pending, sponsored by her 76-year-old mother, now a lawful permanent resident. But under present immigration rules and backlogs, family sponsorship can take many years to bridge the gap between citizens and unlawful immigrants in the same family.
What a proud day for America.
"Humans are humans. We all wish for a better life for our families and children. The blood that has soaked into the earth of foreign lands while defending our freedom is all of one color. We are unique...we are a country founded on immigration. We are a country of immigrants. That is what makes us strong. That is what allows us to move forward. This is the American way." - Ronald Reagan
"Can we doubt that only a Divine Providence placed this land, this island of freedom, here as a refuge for all those people in the world who yearn to breathe freely: Jews and Christians enduring persecution behind the Iron Curtain, the boat people of Southeast Asia, of Cuba and Haiti, the victims of drought and famine in Africa, the freedom fighters of Afghanistan and our own countrymen held in savage captivity." - Reagan at the 1980 Republican convention
"Our whole country is made up of people who came here from someplace else, either the individuals themselves or, like myself -- in my case it was grandparents, others it's their parents -- but we represent the cultures and the diversity of the whole world. And we've come together in what some people called a melting pot and created a whole new breed of human being called an American. And I have to say, I think America's great success in the world has been the result of this diversity and this understanding and coming together of such diverse peoples. And I just have to say that our Hispanic Americans -- their contribution to America is not surpassed by that of any other people. They have brought a great warmth, and they have brought great traditions of family. In our wars, they have brought great service and great heroism and loyalty to this country. And all I would like to say to them is, God bless them all, and vaya con Dios." - Reagan September 13, 1985
Ive spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I dont know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get there. Thats how I saw it, and see it still. Farewell Address to the Nation, January 11, 1989
In further news, critics at the DNC fear these possible illegal immigrants will not be able to drive to the polls on election day.
We all want that....its the massive illegal migration we are against.
I'll believe it when I see it.
"State officials say 250,000 licenses are in line to be suspended"
So what's the hold up?
"But critics say the enforcement will fall mainly on illegal immigrants who are hard-working members of society..."
But critics say the enforcement will fall mainly on ILLEGAL immigrants...
"- and to local D.M.V. clerks with no understanding of complicated immigration laws."
Illegal = AGAINST the LAW! What is so d**n complicated about that?
"It's actually harmful to national security to deny licenses to people on the basis of immigration status."
Not if you deport them.
"typically ran $20,000 to $25,000 a year"
Wages no American will work for , huh?
Okay, I get it. This is another one of those stories where we are supposed to feel sorry for the illegals. I have a very hard time working up a whole lot of sympathy for those who circumvent our laws and take our jobs and our resources and who cheat OUR children and then when they get in trouble for it, we're supposed to make the trouble go away. I do feel a little sorry for the children born to these irresponsible lawbreakers. It isn't their fault and it's too bad that their lives are disrupted by their parents lack of thought and consideration for them. But it's a matter of priorities. We need to take care of own before we try to take care of the rest of the world.
Who knew that a fake SS card would have been the speedy answer to his problems.