It’s been more than six years since former Gov.Eliot Spitzer tried to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.
The move sparked a firestorm of protest, with numerous county clerks refusing to go along and Republicans assailing the Democratic governor’s idea.
There was widespread voter anger, too, and Spitzer ultimately abandoned the plan, saying “you don’t need a stethoscope to hear the heartbeat of the public on this one.”
Now a group of Democratic lawmakers hopes to bring back the idea, pointing to other states that have since allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses.
“The climate now is much different,” said Democratic Sen. Jose Peralta of Queens, who along with fellow Democratic Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda from the Bronx is sponsoring a bill that would let undocumented immigrants get licenses.
The push is also an example of how the election of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has emboldened progressives, even on statewide issues. Both de Blasio and his GOP opponent in the election, Joe Lhota, supported the idea, said Peralta spokesman Frank Sobrino.
Moreover, during the last two years, eight states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws that allow undocumented immigrants to get licenses, bringing the total to 11.
Peralta and Sepulveda’s approach is different from Spitzer’s.
The former governor, who recently met with Peralta, attempted to change the policy by administrative fiat. He initially penned an executive order and then tried to enact the plan administratively through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Peralta’s effort takes the legislative route which, if it moves forward, should spark a lively debate.
He also has the backing of groups like Make the Road New York, which has long pushed for better access to college for undocumented immigrants.
Supporters also are promoting the security aspects of a policy that would at least provide a more thorough list of who is on the state’s roadways.
The bill would allow the DMV to give licenses to undocumented immigrants who can provide non-U.S. identification and show they have not been convicted of any felonies.
Peralta, Sepulveda, Sen. Adriano Espaillat and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley are expected to promote the bill Thursday during an event at New York City Hall.
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