June 19, 2019

Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v32)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
There's so much debate these days around legal immigration, illegal immigration, pro-crime Democrats, racist Republicans, and more. All of it has a few thousand gallons of gas poured on it daily or even more frequently on social media, traditional media, and alternative media.

The debate, such as it is, is also all helped along by the actions of politicians at the state, local and federal level, for sure. Donald Trump announced his campaign for president by saying that Mexico was going to build a wall. He's ready to announce his re-election bid by tweeting a "vague threat"  of nation-wide sweep to find and deport "millions" of illegals, which according to some reports caught even his own administration officials off guard - no surprise there.

And meanwhile, back in Albany, the New York State Legislature has passed a bill, and our Sonofa Gov has signed it, making the Empire State the 12th in the country to allow undocumented immigrants the right to obtain driver's licenses. This, as you might imagine, is inspiring not only celebration on the side of the Yeas, but deep consternation on the part of the Nays - of which I'm one.

The bill includes multiple modifications to NY's Vehicle and Traffic laws that are designed not only to define how illegal immigrants can obtain a learner's permit or non-commercial driver's license, but also to specifically to protect applicants and their information from being shared, to every extent possible, with federal officials. The licenses are not valid for federal identification, and can be  marked somehow (color-coded, for example) to show the holder is an undocumented immigrant.

According to supporters, here's why we need the bill:
  • rural and heavily agricultural areas of the state, where there's a concentration of immigrants, have a lack of options for public transportation. That causes immigrants to just get in a car and drive when they need to -- doctors, grocery stores, and the like - putting the rest of us in danger; 
  • the number of leaving-the-scene accidents will decrease, and everyone's insurance rates across the state will also decrease;
  • the state stands to take in millions of new revenue - dedicated for infrastructure improvements -  from the fees associate with getting the documents; and
  • the law will help the undocumented to go about their business just like other New Yorkers, and keeps them from being pushed into the shadows.
Some people point to the fact that this is a 'restoration of rights' for people who are here illegally. Prior to an executive action by former Governor George Pataki after 9/11, it was not necessary to present a social security number to obtain a driver's license. Former Governor Eliot Client #9 Spitzer tried to fix this back in 2007, but failed in the face of opposition from, among others, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, now our junior senator, and then-Erie County clerk Kathy Hochul, who of course is Cuomo's number two.

Opponents of the bill suggest that
  • legitimizing illegal immigration will promote more of it;
  • it directly violates federal law, which is dumb;
  • it's 'off track' from what our priorities should be;
  • the safety benefits are questionable and ill-defined at best, and, of course
  • it sends the wrong message to the majority of New Yorkers who are hardworking, law-abiding citizens who do things the right way.
And me? I'm a fan of treating people as human beings. I believe the majority of immigrants are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their family. That said, I'm a fan of legal immigration, and of a path to citizenship for folks brought here as children by their parents. I'm not a fan of deporting people we have allowed to stay here for decades, those who have made their regular check-ins with immigration officials.

And I'm not a fan of encouraging people to break the law.

I'm also not a huge fan of sanctuary laws, and isn't that what this really is? Sure, we don't call it that, but that's the premise, and the promise, of this bill: you'll be protected if you have this documentation. The reality is very different. Sanctuary laws only serve to create a patchwork of rules and protections that arbitrarily change at an interstate highway mile marker. Welcome to New York? You're good. Welcome to Ohio, or Pennsylvania? Yeah, not so much.

I'm also not a fan of state laws that jeopardize New York by putting federal dollars at risk because we are in-your-face daring the current administration to withhold funding. 

And, I'm never convinced when a politician promises generic positive benefits from a law.
  • How much money are New Yorkers going to save on auto insurance? When will the reductions begin? Will we see an itemized line on our car insurance bills showing the impact from this bill, so we as taxpayers can truly see the benefit?
  • Outside of New York City, where there are some 30,000 - 40,000 'leaving the scene' accidents annually, how many occur in the rest of the state? What are we really looking at here in terms of our safety on the roads? And what percentage of those is projected to be caused by an illegal immigrant?
  • How many of the illegal immigrants are going to be able to afford car insurance? Notably, in California where subsidized insurance was offered as part of their driver's license for immigrants program, fewer than 1,000 people took advantage of the offer. Over half a million illegal immigrants received driver's licenses in the first couple years of the California program; not all of them would have been eligible for the subsidy, but still...
Nope -- I'm not a fan of this law, and neither are the majority of New Yorkers. 

But in the end, if our esteemed legislators are willing to sell their souls for a few million bucks a year in licensing and permitting fees, and to flash their 'look at how progressive I am' lapel pins - and they are - what the rest of us think doesn't matter. 

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