WASHINGTON – New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced Wednesday he was abandoning a plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
But he said that the federal government had “lost control” of its borders and left states to deal with the consequences.
“I have concluded that New York state cannot successfully address this problem on its own,” Spitzer said at a news conference after meeting with members of the state’s congressional delegation.
Spitzer said overwhelming opposition led to his decision.
“It does not take a stethoscope to hear the pulse of New Yorkers on this topic,” he said.
The Democratic governor introduced the plan two months ago with the goals of increased security, safer roads and bringing immigrants “out of the shadows.” Opponents charged the scheme would make it easier for would-be terrorists to get identification and make the country less safe.
The decision is another example of the roadblocks that high-profile immigration reforms have faced this year. Less than five months ago, Congress failed to pass legislation that would legalize as many as 12 million unlawful immigrants and fortify the border with Mexico.
“The federal government has lost control of its borders, has allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to enter our country and now has no solution to deal with it,” Spitzer said.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called Spitzer’s reversal on the license issue “a good development” and said immigration is a federal issue for which his department has to “ramp up enforcement.”
“What I want to make sure is that states aren’t working at cross-purposes with us and enabling the kind of conduct we’re enforcing against,” Chertoff said by phone from London.