Editorial

Rights . . . And The Right Thing




The Independent was the first of the local newspapers to endorse a proposed New York State law that allows undocumented workers to apply for a driver’s license, and it has since passed. Licenses will be issued beginning this week under the Green Light Law. The ongoing opposition is duly noted.

On paper, it seems giving an undocumented resident a license primarily reserved for a U.S. citizen is a slap in the face to law-abiding Americans, but a bit of historical perspective is warranted. Foreigners routinely have driven legally in this state and country; college students from overseas have for years without incident.

The argument that the roads will be unsafe is patently wrong: The roads will be safer, because those who want to obtain a license will get the necessary training and take the DMV test to assure that are versed in the fundamentals.

The argument that terrorists will be able to move around the country more easily is a silly one; the radical extreme groups that wish to cause carnage on U.S. soil have a wealth of believers to carryout their dastardly deeds — they merely have to choose those among their ranks who are already licensed. We suspect there are plenty.

The main reason to champion this proposal is a humane one: these are our neighbors, our co-workers. The primary beneficiaries, of Latino descent, have proven themselves again and again to be diligent, hard-working members of the community with deep ties to the schools and churches and a real desire to participate in the process.

The fact they are undocumented is unfortunate; the fact that they are among us overrides that. Their path to citizenship can best be served by allowing them the tools to achieve their goals, and that means driving to work, being able to pick the kids up at school, and scheduling out-of-town doctors’ appointments.

Many other states already license undocumented workers. It was legal in New York until after 9-11. There is significant opposition, mostly along party lines, which is unfortunate. This is not a political issue, but a humanitarian one.

One provision that should be tweaked disallows the federal government — read ICE agents — from using information obtained in the licensing process. Once again, New York, in its desire to play politics, drops the ball on this. Agents on the trail of suspected or convicted violent felons need all the information available and should be able to access files as needed. We are not seeking to condone criminals, we are seeking a better life for our law-abiding neighbors.