Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

July 27, 2013

Fact Check: Spitzer's false claim on immigration

Eliot Spitzer falsely claimed that allowing immigrants living in the United States illegally to obtain driver’s licenses — a policy he attempted to implement as governor of New York in 2007 — is now the “law of the land.” Forty states, including New York, do not currently issue driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

It is true, however, that the policy has been spreading rapidly in recent months. Of the 10 states that issue driver’s licenses regardless of legal status, seven passed such laws this year. Such legislation was introduced in 12 other states this year, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Spitzer, who is now a candidate for New York City comptroller, made this claim on ABC’s “This Week,” while speaking about the “independence of [his] voice” as governor (from 2007 to 2008):

Spitzer, July 14 (2:45 mark): I’ve asked the voters of this city to — for forgiveness. But I have also said, look at the totality of my record. The independence of my voice when it came to Wall Street, when it came to standing up on the environment, low-wage workers, immigrants. We were talking about immigrant rights just a few moments ago on your show. Years ago remember when I said, undocumented immigrants should have driver’s licenses the heavens opened and descended upon me. It’s now the law of the land. It is accepted across the nation.

Ten states – Washington, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont — provide access to driver’s licenses or driving privilege cards (which are used for driving purposes only and generally are not valid for identification) to individuals regardless of legal status, Tanya Broder, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, told us. So, these laws have been adopted in various parts of the country. But these laws are not “the law of the land,” as Spitzer claimed, or even the law in his home state of New York.

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