New York Governor Eliot Spitzer: From a security perspective, we need to know who they (illegal immigrants) are, what they‘re doing. If they‘re going to drive I would rather they be licensed, so we know who they are, where they go, and they can get insurance. As a pure security matter. Richard Clarke, Bill Bratton and Secretary Chertoff said what we are doing will move security forward.
We‘re creating two licenses. Each is equally valid. One of them complies with the federal security statute REAL I.D. One of them does not, and will merely be differentiated by saying “not good for federal I.D. purposes.”
The state of Utah actually created a driver‘s license for undocumented immigrants. This is a number of years ago. The governor approved this was Governor Leavitt, a member of President Bush‘s Cabinet today. Seven states currently do this. Including Michigan, Hawaii, a bunch of others. Secretary Leavitt did it when he was governor. Governor Richardson, presidential candidate, did it in his first year as governor of New Mexico.
MATTHEWS: What do you say of those that killed themselves attacking New York on 9/11 were carrying whole stashes of I.D. driver‘s licenses. They were all in the country, most of them illegally. Yet they had a whole pile of I.D. cards. Isn‘t that exhibit A for the danger of issuing I.D. cards, that people can use at airports?
SPITZER: Just the opposite, they cannot use these to get on airplanes. That‘s why they say “not valid for federal purposes.” In fact, Secretary Chertoff has said specifically that by doing this, we will have the most secure driver‘s license system, among the most secure in the nation. We will move security forward. The prescription for disaster is when you ignore the fact that people are here and let them get forged and fake identification. Every security expert, Richard Clarke, the IG of Homeland Security, who had an op ed in “USA Today,” all agree the best thing to do is to bring the best technology to bear, which is what we will have - facial identification technology, all sorts of scanning technologies, require them with a foreign passport, and only then to be able to get a driver‘s license, so we know who they are and where they are. Give you one more validator on this; the 9/11 Commission specifically looked at the issue of whether or not you should require proof of how you‘re here before you give somebody a driver‘s license and said that‘s not the issue. They said put in place the very technology we‘re putting in place. As recently as today, Slade Gordon, a former United States senator, Republican from the state of Washington, on the 9/11 Commission, endorsed my policy. This is the sort of validation from security experts, not political rhetoric. The political rhetoric is very easy, frankly on both sides of this issue. I‘m trying to do what is good security policy right down the middle.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re denying the fact that your initial goal was to give people here illegally full-fledged I.D. cards, not just the ability to drive a car. And you‘ve only backed down on that because you were forced to by opposition.
SPITZER: Chris, I hate to disagree with you; but what I did was work with the Department of Homeland Security, with Secretary Chertoff, to say how can we make what we‘re trying to do comply with Real I.D. This has been a controversial statute, as you know. The mandates imposed on the states initially were onerous financially. They didn‘t make sense. Secretary Chertoff and I and others negotiated, worked hard; and the Department of Homeland Security has said, if you put in place the measures that you are talking about putting in place, you, as the state of New York and other states as well, will be in compliance with Real I.D.
And at that point, I said good, we can accomplish all of these objectives, security and identification card. It‘s good for us, good for individuals to come out of the shadows. Everybody wins. And that‘s why this policy has the center supporting it.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your hopes as an American for the fact we can have a secure I.D. card in this country. Where do you stand on that principle?
SPITZER: I have no fundamental problem with people having an identification card. In essence, we have one. People either have a Social Security number or a tax ID number or a driver‘s license or a passport; and the very premise of what I am saying right now, the reason we want the million undocumented immigrant whose are in New York, 14 million in the nation, a million here in New York state, we want them to be visible. We don‘t want people living in the shadows. We don‘t want people to have a presence we don‘t know about. That‘s why the very predicate of my security argument has been let us know who is here. If that is what an I.D. card does—yes, I know there are going to be some on either end, the libertarians and perhaps the ACLU as well will disagree with it. Knowing who is here is a legitimate argument. As somebody said, privacy does not necessarily mean anonymity. I think in this day and age, having some identification is not an unwarranted position.
MATTHEWS: Well said. One last thought; these I.D. cards—not the I.D. cards, but the limited driver‘s license you‘re proposing for people without documentation, are you sure those cards, those driver‘s licenses you‘re talking about issuing, will not be used for any other purpose than driving a car?
SPITZER: It depends on what you mean any other purpose. If it gives somebody‘s age and they need to to prove they‘re old enough to get a drink, I suppose it could be used for that. But if you‘re talking about getting on an airplane, absolutely not. That is the critical differentiation between a document that satisfies Real I.D. and one that does not.
MATTHEWS: They will not be able to use them to establish a paper trail to begin developing a facsimile of legality?
SPITZER: No, they will not be what we call breeder documents. That is a term that some of us who have studied this have gotten to know. It will not be the basis for then subsequent documents that can then circle back so you could then get a federal I.D., a real I.D. documentation.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Governor Eliot Spitzer. Thank you for coming on HARDBALL tonight.