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Who’s An Immigrant?

When looking at the Lessons of Spitzer’s license reversal they missed the biggest lesson: reason will almost never triumph over bigotry and ignorance.

I was born in New York state. I was in law enforcement in New York state. I voted in New York state. I had a driver’s license in New York state. I know what a New York state driver’s license proves, and what it does not prove.

A New York state driver’s license is proof that you have passed the requisite tests to operate a motor vehicle on the public roads. It is proof of your date of birth, as you have to present your birth certificate to obtain the license. [I was annoyed by that as I had a Texas driver’s license and was, I thought, transferring my license, but New York made me go through the whole process because I was under 18.]

To register to vote, I had to take my birth certificate and other forms of identification to the registrar’s office because I had to prove my identity, my age, my current residence, and my citizenship. A passport is the only form of identification that provides all those proofs, a driver’s license does not indicate that you are anything other than a resident.

When I left New York in the early 1980’s the driver’s license was a blue IBM card. It wasn’t laminated, and it didn’t have a picture. If you received a ticket, the judge wrote directly on the back of your license upon conviction.

The “deal” Spitzer agreed to with Homeland Security negated the purpose of the original reason for the change and created a bureaucratic mess for county clerks throughout the state. Every licensed driver in the state was going to be required to take proof of citizenship status to the county clerk’s office when they renewed their driver’s license. I think most people understand the visceral reaction everyone has to getting their license renewed, and now there would be an extra step to screw everything up and make the lines even longer and processing even slower.

In Florida, with an appointment, it took me two hours to renew my license, and I wasn’t required to take anything but the eye test at the counter. If I hadn’t had to take the eye test, I could have renewed by mail.

Governor Spitzer was attempting to solve problems in the state of New York – unlicensed, uninsured drivers increasing the cost of automobile insurance in the state, and thousands of people in the state who can’t be identified which affects the allocation of tax money and resources.

Dr. Cole has some pithy comments on the “gotcha” questions about drivers licenses in the recent debate: The Democratic Debate seen from San Francisco, Boston and Des Moines.

If Lou Dobbs wants to run for President he can form the modern version of American Party, as he and his supporters certainly qualify as “Know Nothings.”

It would be nice if a few of the “pundits” took a high school civics class and learned something about the distribution of powers and responsibilities of local, state, and federal governments.


1 Cookie Jill { 11.17.07 at 10:20 pm }

In California, our whole economy really is balanced upon the backs of “illegals.”

I don’t think that anybody really is prepared to pay $25 a basket for strawberries, but I don’t see “Norte Americanos” lining up for jobs paying minimum wages, no benefits, lack of breaks, lack of “facilities”, often in 100+ degree heat for 12-14 hours a day.

I, like others, am conflicted over “illegals”, as my father’s parents came over from Finland and gave up everything about their former lives/country and “Americanized” themselves. But they were white. They knew some English. They were fleeing the Russians, the dreaded “commies”. So, they were welcomed to immigrate and they were so proud that America gave them that opportunity. And, of course, settled in a cold, harsh part of the country similar to Finland and where most Scandanavians ended up…Michigan/Wis/Minn

My great, great grandmother on my mother’s side was Native American in Louisiana. I think we know what “illegal immigration” did to them.

I think that we need to start talking about the inequity of the immigration process. Those who are poor and from Mexico who come here to tend our elderly’s personal needs or to pick those strawberries, etc. often have to wait 10-14 years for citizenship. Those who are wealthy and not of “working class” and generally speaking “white” can gain citizenship in 1-2 years.

We also need to start talking about the destruction that NAFTA has done to Mexican workers and how our country enables corrupt Mexican governments that keep their people poor, empoverished, uneducated (parents have to pay for extended education in their schools) and yearning for the “American Dream” for a better life than “las maquiadoras.”

It’s a complex issue and, unfortunately, complexity doesn’t play in our society, especially when it comes to immigration. It’s brown or white.

2 Bryan { 11.17.07 at 11:26 pm }

Both of my grandfathers were born in this country of immigrant parents, but my grandmothers’ families go back to the 17th century in the US, so I’m familiar with both sides, but I’m also familiar with history, and based on their features, many of these, so-called “illegal immigrants” arrived here between 10 and 20 thousand years ago.

If there weren’t cameras around I know full well and good who would be clearing that brush in Crawford, because I was stationed in San Angelo, in West Texas and I know who did all of the grunt work.

They grow strawberries in Mexico, and a lot of other fruits and vegetables, so if cheap was the only concern, we could still have cheap food, but American corporations wouldn’t be making the profits.

The real problem is that it is so expensive to cross the border now, that the workers who once came in, did their work and went home, have to stay. There are a lot of solutions, but no political will to actually implement them, and a lot of bigots to spew their hatred.