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."
You mean "National parks" environmentalist Teddy, anti business Teddy, USDA government regulation Teddy, Let's elect 'rat Wilson Teddy, or invade sovereign nations Teddy? Pfffttt! You know nothing of history either.
I guess the "conservatives" at FR accept the welfare state and the tax burden...it's just the recipient who don't "deserve it" that bothers them, huh? Nobody deserves to get money, or health care, for no work. Instead of fighting the problem you fight the straw dog. Pathetic.
Who did she steal the right to drive from smart guy?
Speak for yourself, pal.
I do speak for myself. My posts have been clear of thought and meaning. I have nuked every argument offered and I find the PaleoCon's intellectual abilities lacking. I feel like I'm arguing with children, retards, and lunatics. I will never convince them that "Liberty is not Americas gift to the world, it is Gods gift to each and every person," but I thank God that he gave us President George W Bush.
"We affirm the integrity of the international borders of the United States and the Constitutional authority and duty of the federal government to guard and to protect those borders, including the regulation of the numbers and of the qualifications of immigrants into the country.
Each year approximately one million legal immigrants and almost as many illegal aliens enter the United States. These immigrants - including illegal aliens - have been made eligible for various kinds of public assistance, including housing, education, Social Security, and legal services. This unconstitutional drain on the federal Treasury is having a severe and adverse impact on our economy, increasing the cost of government at federal, state, and local levels, adding to the tax burden, and stressing the fabric of society. The mass importation of people with low standards of living threatens the wage structure of the American worker and the labor balance in our country.
We oppose the abuse of the H-1B and L-1 visa provisions of the immigration act which are displacing American workers with foreign.
We favor a moratorium on immigration to the United States, except in extreme hardship cases or in other individual special circumstances, until the availability of all federal subsidies and assistance be discontinued, and proper security procedures have been instituted to protect against terrorist infiltration.
We also insist that every individual group and/or private agency which requests the admission of an immigrant to the U.S., on whatever basis, be required to commit legally to provide housing and sustenance for such immigrants, bear full responsibility for the economic independence of the immigrants, and post appropriate bonds to seal such covenants.
We demand that the federal government restore immigration policies based on the practice that potential immigrants will be disqualified from admission to the U.S. if, on the grounds of health, criminality, morals, or financial dependence, they would impose an improper burden on the United States, any state, or any citizen of the United States.
We oppose the provision of welfare subsidies and other taxpayer-supported benefits to illegal aliens, and reject the practice of bestowing U.S. citizenship on children born to illegal alien parents while in this country.
We oppose any extension of amnesty to illegal aliens. We call for the use of U.S. troops to protect the states against invasion.
We oppose bilingual ballots. We insist that those who wish to take part in the electoral process and governance of this nation be required to read and comprehend basic English as a precondition of citizenship. We support English as the official language for all governmental business by the United States."
It seems to me that the "Constimatushunalist" Party's only sin is shaming the larger ones.
Someone pass the casserole.
You can't back that up with fact. The number of legal immigrants is static. It doesn't change if their are 1 million illegals entering the US or zero. Try again genius.
They're nothing of the kind. You accuse others of making statements they didn't make and attack them personally because they disagree with you.
You're Michael Savage's alter ego.
Cry me a river --- there are buses these people can take or they can ride bikes. They chose to come here illegally because waiting in line with those who choose to come here legally was just too much to ask. They don't want to fix up their own countries and we can't have the entire world move to the USA.
There is a legal process, there are millions of people who want to come here so there is a long long line. These people are actually arrogant and believe they should be rewarded for breaking the law and given preference over those who patiently obey the law.
As I wrote before "I guess the "conservatives" at FR accept the welfare state and the tax burden...it's just the (illegal immigrant) recipient who don't "deserve it" that bothers them, huh?"
Not really. For someone trying to come here legally, it is often necessary for there to be a job available and some evidence that the job is difficult to fill --- so someone else steals a social security number and commits felony document fraud to obtain that job and takes the would be legal's chance away.
Total B.S. Read his farewell address to the nation when he left office. If you're to lazy to look it up, I'll find it (again) and post it.
When he granted amnesty, he wanted crackdowns on employers. Predictably, he ended up with the amnesty, but Congress rejected the other half. Remember the "shining city on a hill" part of his farewell address? The next sentence goes on to say "and if the city has to have walls..." (paraphrasing). It then goes on to say, that there should also be doors (obviously for legal immigrants).
Since you've called other people on this post "retards" among other things, genius, do you think he was talking about walls on the Eastern and Western seaboards?
He recognized the problem, tried to solve it, got screwed over, and realized the only solution.
As I wrote before, there are about 50,000 mexican immigrants granted visas each year. Their are over 10 million illegals mostly from Central America in the US. The businesses want them. They want to be here. It is only the knuckle dragging PaleoCons that prevent supply meeting demand. They are already here and working and supporting our system. All they want is a job. I have sympathy for them and I like the cheap labor. They are happy - I'm happy - It is a win win situation...except for the people who hate wetbacks.
Every argument I read for the "conservatives" is that the illegals are sucking up the milk from the government teat which rightfully belongs to legal leeches like me." Cry me a river now.
Please send a polite email to the NYT's public editor and suggest they help Nina Bernstein improve her reporting skills:
1. These aren't "immigrants," they're illegal immigrants.
2. Why was this written from a pro-illegal immigration perspective?
3. Why did she get an interview with Margaret Stock, but not with, for instance, one of the Florida sheriffs who helped stop Jeb Bush's plan ( http://lonewacko.com/blog/archives/001210.html ) or with the Commisioner of Minnesota's Department of Public Safety ( http://lonewacko.com/blog/archives/000717.html )
4. Why didn't Nina Bernstein find one of those people whose SSNs had been used and present a sympathetic portrait of them?
5. Check out another one of Nina's magnum opies: "From Immigrants, Stories Of Scrutiny, and Struggle" http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=3744
That older story contains the following: "longtime immigrant workers who cannot prove that they are working legally"
This story contains this: "200,000 immigrants who cannot prove that they are here legally"
Excellent!!!! The country club Republicans love this new class of imported serfs, their cheap labor. So let's keep them serfs.
The NYT's public editor is at: email@example.com
I already posted an except from Reagan's farwell address in post 14, Einstien. I even bolded a section just for you.
Please do look it up again, and this time READ IT!