As New York State’s legislative session draws to a close, Democrats in Albany continue passing legislation that will further incentivize illegal immigration at a time when President Trump and the responsible members of Congress are desperately pursuing solutions to fix our broken immigration system and stem the unsustainable flow of illegal border crossings. Earlier this session, Governor Cuomo and the Democrats’ leadership in the legislature granted free tuition assistance to illegal immigrants, including some who have been in our state for as little as 30 days. Shocking to most New Yorkers is that lifelong residents and taxpayers of our state with household incomes of over $80,000 do not qualify for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Neither do our state’s graduate students. Adding further insult to injury is the fact that it wasn’t until my Republican colleagues and I publicly embarrassed the Democrats in the media that they chose to cover the college expenses of the children of members of the U.S. Military who were killed or disabled in the line of duty.
If offering costly giveaways, that most citizens don’t even receive wasn’t enough, the Democrat-controlled State Legislature’s latest efforts to appear pro-immigrant are actually making New Yorkers less safe. To this end they recently reduced the sentencing for illegal immigrants convicted on misdemeanor charges from 365 to 364 days so as to eliminate local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal detainer requests. In addition, a bill was introduced that would turn federal agents into criminals, guilty of contempt of court or making a false arrest, if the apprehension of an illegal immigrant was made on the way to or from a civil court proceeding.
Now, the Governor and the majority of our state’s legislators have disregarded federal laws and potentially endangered the citizens who elected them, by adopting legislation that will allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to those who are unlawfully residing in our state and nation.
The new law will permit the estimated 750,000 illegal immigrants over the age of 16 and residing in our state to apply for standard driver’s licenses or learner’s permits using forms of foreign identification, including some that are expired. The New York State Association of County Clerks, which administers driver licensing in the majority of the state, has repeatedly said that local DMVs and County Clerks are not equipped to verify whether the documents submitted are authentic, as it is a function of the federal government.
The lack of proper vetting of the background documents submitted by driver’s license applicants runs counter to the recommendations made in the 9/11 Commission Report, which stated that all levels of government need to strengthen their requirements for IDs to ensure they are not exploited by those attempting to do harm. Sources of identification are often the last opportunity to ensure people are who they say they are and to check whether they are criminals or terrorists. Those who support this legislation are turning a blind-eye to the fact that all but one of the 9/11 hijackers had managed to obtain some form of government-issued identification, mostly through the submission of fraudulent documents to the issuing entity. While I’m sure that most applicants will apply for licenses to make their lives more convenient, we cannot guarantee that is the case for all. One person who exploits the flaws in this program to commit a nefarious act is one too many.
In addition, New York will not require real proof of residency or a tax identification number, as is the case in other states, and will place restrictions on law enforcement agencies. Under the legislation, not only can background information not be shared with law enforcement without a properly executed court order, subpoena or warrant, but the DMV must notify the license holder within three days if a request for background information has been made by a federal immigration enforcement agency.
As the daughter of immigrants, I have advocated throughout my career for sensible immigration reform that would secure our borders and allow for the many hardworking families and individuals seeking a better life to pursue the American dream through safe and proper channels. Unfortunately many of my colleagues have foregone urging our representatives in Washington to make these changes and have instead decided to incentivize, aid and abet illegal immigration by circumventing federal law altogether. In a state and city that lived through the horror of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the lack of proper vetting and the restrictions on the release of background information is simply irresponsible and a danger to all residents, regardless of their immigration status.
Nicole Malliotakis represents portions of Brooklyn and Staten Island in the New York State Assembly and was the Republican nominee for NYC Mayor in 2017. She’s currently a candidate for Congress in New York’s 11th Congressional District.