Sunday, November 18, 2007

GOP bill would ban issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants

GOP bill would ban issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants

Web Posted: 11/15/2007 04:47 PM CST

Gary Martin
Express-News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — A day after New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer dropped his plan to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, Republican lawmakers in Congress filed a bill that would prohibit states from taking such actions.

The New York proposal proved to be a headache for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who both embraced and then denounced the plan, drawing criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

The issue also turned New York into a political battleground as Democrats and Republican turned the proposal into a larger debate on immigration reform.

Just hours after Spitzer dropped the proposal, Clinton released a statement saying that as president she would not support driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Republicans in Congress then filed a bill that would prohibit states from rewarding undocumented immigrants with driver's licenses.

“An important part of national security means that only legal residents can obtain government-issued identification,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, one of 154 sponsors of the bill.

Smith, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said prohibiting states from issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants is widely supported by a majority of American citizens.

“They understand that rewarding 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. only encourages another 12 million to come and stay,” Smith said.

Hispanic groups said a sound policy decision to issue licenses and improve public safety on roads and highways fell victim to the “anti-immigrant fervor that has gripped the nation.”

Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, president of the Hispanic Federation, said the issue has been clouded by hateful and irrational rhetoric in New York and in Washington D.C.

Spitzer, too, said his critics inflamed the debate with anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Nonetheless, Spitzer admitted publicly that he lost the political battle and forced him to abandon the proposal, even though eight states currently do not require proof of citizenship to receive a driver's license.

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