Driver’s Licenses as Proof of Identification

It seems the Republicans just can’t wait for another crap excuse to pinch their buttocks in false indignation.  Monroe County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo is staging a revolution, refusing to honor the governor’s new policy.  The governor’s new policy makes a passport, not proof of residency, the legal requirement for getting a driver’s license.  The indignation is that this might pave the way for millions of illegal immigrants to flock here for the sake of having a license, and apparently, the local media is willing to play ball with this:

Fight Over Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants –

Starting in the end of the year, the new state policy will allow immigrants to use a passport or birth certificate–not proof of legal residency–to get a license.

Some Republican State Assembly members joined Dinolfo in denouncing the plan and promising action against it. They fear the new policy will attract more illegal immigrants to the state and devalue the license as a form of identification. They also said it would leave New York more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The shrilling of both the media and local Republicans ignores some basic facts that beg for attention.  

Let’s first acknowledge the complaints. One is that this plan would attract more illegal immigrants. Another is that it would devalue the driver’s license as a form of identification. Still another – the inevitable – is that this would all leave us vulnerable to terrorist attack.

The key to this whole hub-bub is the idea of the license as a form of identification.  All other arguments revolve around this one.  The presumption is that driver’s licenses are secure and verifiable.  Does requiring a passport instead of proof of residency constitute a loss of veracity in identification?

First, you’ll have to prove that New York State driver’s licenses are, in fact, a verifiable form of identification.  You can see what the current requirements of the DMV are here.  Basically, to prove your identity, you need to bring with you documentation which is rated on a points system, based on it’s intrinsic veracity.  You will find that, of the six maximum “points” of identification required, a US passport already constitutes a potential four and a foreign passport rates a three.  Showing up with another driver’s license with your face and presumed name on it is a solid-gold pass at 6 points. 

I’ve got a license that says my name is “McLovin,” how ’bout you?

Other forms of identification in the “2 points” range are, as you might imagine, not very secure and in fact easily forged.  A US high school ID card?  Hell, I can get one of those!  You can even use a paystub and supermarket check-cashing card, which I think it is safe to assume, can be readily forged or doctored.  Welfare cards, food stamps cards, tribal Mohawk identification, a GED and even a union card all stand as proof of identity.

So already, the driver’s license as a means of identification is a highly suspect thing.  And if it’s suspect here, you can bet it’s even less secure in other states.  Most people I meet that visit from other states complain about what a tight-ass system we have here.

So, why would illegal immigrants suddenly flock to NYS because all they need is a passport to get a license?  Wait, better question: of the Mexicans jumping the fences in Texas and California, how many do you suppose brought their passports?  Because it would be easier by far to obtain/doctor/forge the other needed documents we have now than it is to forge a passport.  Far from being a lowered bar to entry, requiring a passport – assuming anyone really checked its veracity, which they are unlikely to do – is in fact a much, much more stringent requirement.

And of course, everyone who boards a plane in this country needs proof of identification to do so.  Even before 911, this was true.  So, those means of identification did not stop attacks in the past and are unlikely – no matter how stringent the requirments – to stop any future attacks.

So, let’s all just simmer down.

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By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.