We learn that the 19 people who engineered 9/11 had among them a collection of 63 driver's licenses. Were these critical enablers? After all, you don't need a driver's license to slash a pilot's throat. But you do need a driver's license, or a passport, to board the plane in the first place, and so the security people became exercised on the subject.
We walked into a nicely democratic cavil. One of the parties to this debate, New York state Sen. Bill Larkin, quotes the organization 9/11 Families for a Secure America: "The driver's license is the basic identification document for nearly everyone in America. When the terrorists needed places to claim as a residence, they used their licenses as 'ID' for signing their leases. When they opened the bank accounts that they used to place the financing for the conspiracy, they used their licenses as ID. When they rented cars, rented motel rooms, when they paid tuition for their flying lessons, they used their licenses to 'identify' themselves."
In the raging quarrel in New York, a parliamentary point is introduced: What gave Gov. Eliot Spitzer the authority to specify, without consulting the state legislature, who qualified for a driver's license? That is among the criticisms leveled at Gov. Spitzer's decision to allow illegals to acquire driver's licenses.
The governor argues that doing so will actually strengthen law enforcement, by bringing illegals "out of the shadows." But this is only part of the larger question, which is: How do we treat illegals?
Some years ago, again in California, it was proposed that at the very least we should not fork over money to educate illegals, or to pay their doctors' bills, let alone bills that came in from doctors and nurses who had expedited the arrival of more children born to illegals. Proposition 187 passed handily, but opponents promptly took it to court, on the grounds that whether a person is legally in the United States or illegally here, he is nevertheless a person, and as such, protected by the terms of the 14th Amendment ("nor shall any state ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws").
So, a nice try by Gov. Spitzer, but no cigar. He and his party will need to come up with measures more substantive than wordplay to cope with this problem, which derives from progressive assaults on the powers and responsibilities of nationhood.
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