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NYCLU Praises Expansion of Immigrant Access to Driverís Licenses


Urges Governor Spitzer to Resist Unjust Federal ID Law in New York

NEW YORK -- The New York Civil Liberties Union, along with immigrantsí rights and labor organizations, applauds Governor Eliot Spitzerís decision to broaden immigrant access to driverís licenses. Under guidelines announced today, New Yorkers can obtain a driverís license without regard to their immigration status.

ďGovernor Spitzerís decision to broaden immigrant access to driverís licenses is a great victory for all New Yorkers,Ē said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. ďWe applaud Governor Spitzer for his leadership in ensuring that all New Yorkers are treated equally by their state government and granted the same access to a state driverís license.Ē

In 2002, then-Governor George Pataki instituted a requirement that all driverís license applicants provide a social security number to prove their immigration status. Government officials estimate that approximately 500,000 New Yorkers lost their eligibility for a driverís license due to this policy.

Today, Governor Spitzer announced a reversal of the Pataki-era policy. New Yorkers will no longer have to prove their immigration status when applying for a driverís license. Instead, applicants will be required to submit secure identity documents, such as valid foreign passports.

The new policy will benefit millions of New York residents, as hundreds of thousands of motorists who used to be uninsured will be able to obtain a driverís license and automobile insurance, ensuring safer roads.

ďThe broadening of immigrant access to driverís licenses will bring hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers out of the shadows and allow them to become full contributing members of our society and economy,Ē said Udi Ofer, Field Director and Legislative Counsel at the NYCLU. ďWe look forward to continuing to work with the governor to prevent misguided and unjust federal policies, such as those contained in the Real ID Act, from erasing the positive gains for immigrants made under the new state policy announced today.Ē

The NYCLU is concerned that the federal government will attempt to force New York to reverse the progress made by Governor Spitzerís decision to broaden immigrant access to driverís licenses.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 in an attempt to federalize state driverís licenses by imposing a broad array of regulations on how they are issued and verified. Should the Real ID Act become law in New York, it will force the Department of Motor Vehicles into the business of enforcing federal immigration law by again requiring that all driverís license applicants prove their lawful immigration status.

States are not required to implement the Real ID Act, and seventeen states have already passed legislation rejecting it. The NYCLU urges Governor Spitzer to protect the important progress made today and express his opposition to the federal Real ID Act.

More information on the Real ID Act can be found online at:


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