As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Toward A Demonization-Free Politics

It's sad that we can't have a conversation about public safety in this country without it degenerating into an expression of xenophobia.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer formally announced today that he would abandon his plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, conceding that his best efforts to sell New Yorkers on the merits of his proposal had clearly failed.

The decision ends a bitter seven-week battle over the proposed policy that battered Mr. Spitzer and his fellow Democrats and drew national attention from critics of illegal immigration.

“It does not take a stethoscope to hear the pulse of New Yorkers on this topic,” Mr. Spitzer said, standing with a half-dozen members of New York’s Congressional delegation who had supported his original move to give licenses to illegal immigrants.

In acknowledging one of his first major reversals as governor, Mr. Spitzer hit a few familiarly pugilistic notes, lashing into critics who, Mr. Spitzer said, “equated minimum-wage, undocumented dishwashers with Osama bin Laden.” He also said he still believed his proposal would have benefited New Yorkers, citizens and immigrants alike, and lit into federal officials for failing to fix the nation’s immigration system at the national level.

Spitzer's doing the right thing by listening to the concerns of New Yorkers. Unfortunately, immigrant-bashers and "anti-amnesty" activists drowned out the needs to reasonably keep the roads safe. Unlicensed drivers are not a good thing. There's no way to track them and measure their ability to follow traffic laws. I've heard many law enforcement officials, responding to criticism that this would give terrorists legal ID, say that "if a terrorist wants to give us fingerprints and a photo and a current address, go ahead." It's shocking that we allow xenophobes to get away with equating immigrants to terrorists in such a cavalier fashion.

The governor was trying to make a solution in the midst of chaos, and he was absolutely justified in doing so. The federal government's immigration policy has failed. Just focusing on the border, when fully half of all the undocumented in this country overstay tourist visas, will fail. A comprehensive solution is all that will succeed.

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