Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

DHS, New York Reach Agreement on Enhanced Driver?s License


Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer jointly announced on October 27, 2007, that New York and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have reached an agreement to launch a program to issue an “enhanced” driver’s license in accordance with security concerns and provisions of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and the REAL ID Act. Secretary Chertoff said the enhanced license will “help ensure the security of New York’s northern border” and ensure economic vitality. He said that the DHS hopes to announce a final regulation shortly “that provides a sensible solution from a cost, convenience and privacy perspective.” Gov. Spitzer noted that “[g]iven that as a result of the expected final REAL ID regulations that we understand will address our previous concerns, New York’s license will already be close to compliance with the new federal requirements. So we now believe we can implement both REAL ID and our policy change at the same time.”

In response to questions about whether the new license would be issued to undocumented individuals, Gov. Spitzer noted that two types of licenses would be issued. “[T]he only difference between the REAL ID license and the non-REAL ID license, federal versus the non-federal, will be the demarcation in print that will say, on the non-REAL ID license, ‘Not valid for federal identification.’?” The latter, he said, would not allow the licensee to board a plane or cross the border — in short, to do anything other than drive.

Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s remarks during the debate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 30, 2007, about allowing undocumented persons to obtain a New York driver’s license produced heated exchanges with the other candidates. The driver’s license issue, and immigration in general, are expected to be a highlight of the upcoming presidential campaign, said commentator Chris Matthews. Stay tuned.

The DHS-New York announcement is available at www.dhs.gov.

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