Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spitzer Drops License Plan, A Note on Immigration

Thank God.

This is a contentious plan that saw no short-term effects to the voting public and little long-term effects to justify forcing it into law against massive public opposition. The voting public, whether it be because of racism, xenophobia, or just that it aggravates them that illegal immigrants found their way to America easier than their ancestors, do not show sympathy with immigrants who come here illegally.

It is true that some immigrants are forced, by economic or political means, to come to the United States illegally, and most come here looking for a decent living and not to take advantage of our social services. Sure some illegal immigrants are forced into slave labor just to keep themselves in the country, but the American people do not show sympathy with their plight.

Americans see their country has something that needs to be earned. Their ancestors sold everything they had to get on overcrowded, dirty boats for weeks at a time only to come to Ellis Island and be forced to go through hurdle after hurdle before arriving in America and have to start from scratch. In the eyes of Americans, illegal immigrants did not earn their way to America. They ran across the Rio Grade, or got off a plane and went into hiding after their visa expired. Americans feel, and justifiably so, their ancestors would not have been given such a fair deal if their ancestors came to America illegally, whether their arrival illegally was justified or not.

Now there are racial and xenophobic undertones in this debate as well. I highly doubt the debate would be as divisive if the immigrants came from Ireland, Scotland, or Norway. The color of immigrants' skin, the language they speak, and sometimes the religion they preach and seen by many as a threat to all-things American. This argument, however, would still be present if all immigration was legal and documented, as it was in the early 20th century.

Now, I understand Spitzer's rational. This is a problem that the federal government, thanks to lack of enforcement of the laws, has forced us to deal with. Unlicensed illegal immigrants cause accidents which drive up insurance costs. Licensing them and allowing them to get insurance decreases those chances, but I highly doubt any licensed illegal immigrant is going to be able to afford car insurance. Instead of steamrolling his plan, Governor Spitzer really needed to convince the people why he has to come up with this plan; "Because lack of federal invervention on the issue is causing unlicensed drivers to get into accidents, costing New Yorkers more. Until they come up with an immigration solution, we have no choice but to license them, so they can get insurance."

He didn't

The reason for massive public opposition to this is largely anger over these immigrants entering the country illegally and not being punished for it. Giving them driver's licenses is seen as a reward, ignorning the fact that they've committed a crime, even if it's only a misdemeanor.

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