New York is home to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. A growing number of them have been driving without licenses - and thus without insurance - since former Gov. George Pataki ordered that everyone who signed up for a license had to produce proof of Social Security or valid immigration status.
No one knows how many uninsured drivers there are in New York, but 152,000 people have lost, or are about to lose, their licenses because of Pataki's 2002 edict. They didn't go away. They didn't stop driving. They'll just tool around without insurance. That's unacceptable and downright dangerous. It also forces up everyone else's insurance premiums.
New York's licensing regulations are, appropriately, among the toughest in the nation. Applicants must present a variety of forms of documentation, such as a passport or a birth certificate, to prove they are who they say they are. In this day and age, strict security is an absolute necessity.
To maintain that, Spitzer has ordered applicants who don't have Social Security numbers to produce foreign identification, including, at a minimum, the passport of another country. He has also ordered the DMV to bring in the latest technology to verify the authenticity of such documents. Finally, he's equipping the DMV with devices that can cross-check photos to make sure no one gets more than once license.
Strictly and effectively applied, those measures should be enough to determine the true identities of applicants. They will also put names, addresses and faces into state records increasing the state's ability to keep track of who's here. To charge, as some have, that Spitzer is enabling terrorists is outrageous bunk.
In a better world, we wouldn't have to go through contortions to uphold security standards while preventing New Yorkers from being victimized by uninsured drivers and inflated insurance costs. But that's what we'll have to do until Congress makes it possible for illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows.