Spitzer on the licences-for-illegals compromise: Chertoff made me do it

It might even be true; DHS chief Michael Chertoff isn’t exactly Elliot Ness.

The phone call from a top aide to Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, came two weeks ago, and the message was clear: The department was concerned that Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants would undermine a federal initiative to roll out a new highly secure, nationally recognized license.

That’s a reference to Real ID, which was all but moribund on the Hill until Spitzer announced his plan to let illegals get legal drivers licenses in New York. Spitzer may have save that program even while immolating himself.

The prospect of Mr. Chertoff coming out publicly against Mr. Spitzer’s plan caused deep anxiety among Spitzer administration officials, said Michael A. L. Balboni, the governor’s deputy secretary for public safety, who received the call.

The governor and his aides felt they had few options…

Mr. Spitzer agreed with Mr. Chertoff to a compromise plan on Friday under which the state would offer three levels of driver’s licenses beginning next year, including a limited license that illegal immigrants could obtain but that could not be used to board airplanes or cross borders.

We know what that announcement has done. Among other things, it blew up in Hillary Clinton’s face.

But however much Spitzer wants to blame Chertoff for the compromise, the decision that got him to that point was nobody’s fault but his.

Most lawmakers first heard about the initial policy when the governor announced it, saying, “The D.M.V. is not the I.N.S.”

County clerks who would have to carry out the policy were not consulted. Nor was Mr. Chertoff’s department.

“There’s a very consistent pattern here of not consulting with his friends,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat. “I must say, at this point, people don’t understand what the thinking and the planning was.”

Aides to the governor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had not foreseen the intensity of opposition the license plan would touch off.

Mr. Spitzer saw it as simply keeping a promise he had made during his campaign last year.

And it was consistent with his desire, after battling the Legislature for a frustrating six months, to govern by exercising the powers of the executive agencies under his control, without legislative interference.

And without caring what the voters of New York think, either. Arrogant, out-of-touch Democrats like Spitzer are a gift…to Republicans.

*Fixed the link.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023