Obama Stands Tall On Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Aliens

(Speaking only for me)

Jeralyn's take here

This is a great and powerful moment for Senator Barack Obama:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Il, is standing by his support for granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, even after Gov. Eliot Spitzer, D-NY, abandoned the proposal amidst rising political opposition.

"Obama said in the debate he supported it and he's standing by it," an aide to the Senator told the Huffington Post. "He supported a similar bill in the state senate as a law enforcement measure."

Obama's backing stands in stark contrast to the position taken by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, whose campaign now cites the issue as a basic policy difference between the two Democratic frontrunners.

This is Barack Obama's finest moment in this campaign. And Senator Hillary Clinton's lowest. This is certainly a contrast moment and is the strongest evidence to date of the differences the two would bring to leading the country. I have said that if I were to vote today, I would vote for Barack Obama. Prior to this, it would have been a reluctant vote in his favor. Now it would be a proud vote for Obama. This is the promise he has shown now manifested in REAL leadership.

< Hillary Now Opposes Drivers' Licenses for the Undocumented | Sidney Blumenthal Leaves Salon to Join Clinton Campaign >
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    Of course (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Nov 14, 2007 at 11:51:07 PM EST
    others may disagree.

    He's on the right side ... (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Meteor Blades on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:55:42 AM EST
    ...who knows if it's for the right reasons, which would go a long way to helping any doubters decide, as you already have, that it's his finest moment.

    Sounds like the wrong reasons.... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 06:19:37 AM EST
    "He supported a similar bill in the state senate as a law enforcement measure."

    Sounds to me like he supports getting their names and addresses in a database to aid law enforcement, not because he's got a soft spot for undocumented peoples.  

    Now if we could figure out how to get all the undocumented peoples names and addresses in a database without allowing them to drive, Dems and Repubs would support it.


    Framing (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by archpundit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 10:37:40 AM EST
    He's for it because it allows undocumented workers to get auto insurance which he sees mandatory auto insurance as a good thing. He's voted for the bill in Illinois and staked out the same position in the 2004 primary.  

    to those with licenses.

    You do not need a license to get auto insurance, merely the will to follow the law and do so.


    Really? (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by archpundit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:03:33 PM EST
    I certainly had to demonstrate I had a license to get automobile insurance.

    it, that it's not so clear.

    On the one hand I find:

    In order to get insurance, you will need some sort of driver's license. If you have been in the country for more than 30 days, you will need a driver's license issued from the state in which you have taken up residency. For details on getting a driver's license, see How2 Get a Driver's License.

    If you have been in the USA for less than 30 days, you may use your international driver's license in some states, if you possess one.

    And on the other:
    Obtaining Auto Insurance without a Drivers License

    You can't legally drive without a driver's license. But assuming you own a vehicle that you still want to cover for physical damage you should be able to get coverage. If you have someone else that you want to allow use of your vehicle then you could list them as a driver on the policy. Don't drive without a valid license though. People do go to jail for being habitual traffic offenders.

    Here is some input from FAQ Farmers:

    The way to do it is over the phone. All you need is a check or credit card, and a fax machine! Make sure you have all the information on your car available including the vehicle identification number, the license plate number, year and make of the vehicle, and a Dl number (an ID number should work). They shouldn't ask you to fax a copy of it. Try AAA first.

    whatever looking-into you did ... (none / 0) (#25)
    by wystler on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:41:21 PM EST
    ... applies for your state only, since state code rules this question.

    A visit to any major metropolitan traffic court will familiarize yourself with the crux of the problem, and the size of the issue. Well over half the call I was "fortunate" enough to witness included defendants who spoke little or no english, had no drivers license and no insurance. Some were involved in accidents.


    My state only? (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:49:54 PM EST
    I used google, and the generic search string "auto insurance require drivers license."

    One of the quotes was from Immigrant Law Weekly, the other from Wiki answers.

    Although I do suspect you are correct in that it could vary from state to state.


    folks... (none / 0) (#31)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 02:48:37 PM EST
     obviously cars owned by corporations which are "persons" but do not have driver's licences are routinely insured. Obviously also, elderly or disabled people unable to drive are allowed to own and register cars and purchase insurance policies under which other people are insured drivers but they are not. I'd imagine also there more than a few wealthy folks (maybe even some celebrities whose cases are well known?) who lost their license for various reasons and still own cars which are insured with their hired drivers listed as insured drivers.

      As i said these proposals have little to nothing to do with traffic safety or insurance regulations and are all about politics. Spitzer thought he was being clever and got clobbered. Clinton wasn't sure what he was being until it became obvious he was being clobbered.


    Indeed. (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 03:27:55 PM EST
    In fact, the oft-mentioned New Mexico program in which giving illegal immigrants DLs has been touted by the pro-DL's-for-illegal-immigrants-crowd as being responsible for substantially reduced uninsured drivers in that state, apparently forgot about NM's very successful legislative efforts to put some actual teeth into auto insurance enforcement:
    In New Mexico, where an [auto] insurance [compliance] database went into effect in December 2002, the percentage of uninsured motorists has dropped from an estimated 33 percent in 2002 to 13 percent in May 2006, a figure which is slightly lower than the national average. In New Mexico, insurers are asked to verify coverage of randomly selected motorists [among various other enforcement activities].

    I would think it's.... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:59:21 PM EST
    up to the insurance company pending state regs, in theory anyway. But in practice I think you would be hard pressed to find an insurance company who would insure a car owned by an unlicensed driver.

    Anytime I requested a quote my drivers license number was required info.


    kdog (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 01:14:45 PM EST
    But in practice I think you would be hard pressed to find an insurance company who would insure a car owned by an unlicensed driver.
    Od statement coming from someone who always finds a "corporate profit" angle to things. In this case the ins co gets the payments and then denies coverage - if the driver at the time of an accident has no license.

    My dad may soon be unlicensed (82 y/o, and getting older by the second)) but I'm sure he'd want to keep his car so others could drive him around.


    I think (none / 0) (#29)
    by archpundit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 02:14:28 PM EST
    he might have to name someone as the primary driver (if they ask about the license--they may not since he'll have had one).  

    It certainly may not be universal, but I always thought no insurance company would insure you without a license.  At least knowingly ;)


    Didn't think of it that way.... (none / 0) (#30)
    by kdog on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 02:24:58 PM EST
    good point.  Now I'm surprised insurance companies don't issue coverage to unlicensed folks, speaking locally.

    PS...I'd put dad's car in your name, you'll probably get a better rate than he at 82.  82 eh?...Sun God bless 'em:)


    That's quite big of you, BTD. (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:59:57 AM EST
    One of the things (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Edgar08 on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 03:52:59 AM EST
    That would really set Obama above the fray here and prove that he's not just using this Politically is for him to issue a statement that says he disagrees with Spitzer's withdrawal of the plan.

    Right now.  All we really have is Obama's response to Clinton's support of Spitzer.  

    What is Obama's response to Spitzer's decision?

    As Donna S sang (1.00 / 0) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 08:15:30 AM EST
    .... I heard it "on the radio...."

    77% of the citizens of the state of NY oppose this.

    But if that is how a blue state feels, I'd guess that the red ones are at 105%....(that would mean even some illegal aliens are against it...)

    I actually don't know what one does (none / 0) (#2)
    by andgarden on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:01:12 AM EST
    when the politics are stacked against a principled policy you believe in.

    I think the first thing I'd try would be to get the media on my side. No such luck for Spitzer, who really did try and do the right thing.

    O/T The Democrats had an interesting vote this evening.

    Did he (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:49:47 AM EST
    make this a campaign platform or advocate for it before the debate where he jumped on Hillary for waffling on it? Or did he see an opening?  I'm asking specifically about drivers' licenses for undocumented residents, not immigration reform or a path to citizenship.

    Where is he on Real I.D.?

    I don't know the answer, that's why I'm asking.

    Yes Yes (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edgar08 on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 03:56:16 AM EST
    Are we to understand lisences for undocumented aliens is now (or has always been) a policy position that would be articulated by an Obama White House?

    He's now proven he's good at responding to Clinton's missteps.   Does he have the guts to go National with the plan he so forcefully advocated in the Illinois State Senate?


    The Question is (none / 0) (#17)
    by archpundit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 10:41:11 AM EST
    Would he reform REAL ID to make it easier for states to create such a program.  I don't know the answer to that question.

    He voted for it in 2003 (none / 0) (#15)
    by archpundit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 10:39:00 AM EST
    And in the 2004 primary race, he reiterated his support in the primary debates.  Not sure on REAL ID...

    Well, he's certainly going to get asked about this (none / 0) (#10)
    by Geekesque on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 08:41:01 AM EST

    It's really frustrating to see Democrats scurry for the shadows because public opinion is against something--before the issue is even rationally discussed in public.

    And we wonder why Democrats haven't enacted any major pieces of their agenda since LBJ.

    It's sad if this is his finest moment (none / 0) (#11)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 09:48:45 AM EST
    I hope he obliterates this finest moment with something better real soon.  

    I don't disagree with the policy but this issue is nothing but a distraction.  The federal government doesn't issue drivers licenses.  

    I guess we'll see just how talented he is by how he handles the questions on this tonight.   Will the discussion continue in this neverending Tim Russert gotcha moment?   Or will he move it beyond that?  

    I do not think you see the moment (none / 0) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 09:53:05 AM EST
    in the same way I do.

    It is a moment where the sound policy is opposed as a result of bigotry and/or ignorance.

    It is not the importance of the issue, it is the nature of the moment.


    We don't see it the same way (none / 0) (#18)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 10:53:34 AM EST
    Let's see what he actually says in the debate, where his answer will be on film and will be replayed over and over and over.

    Then we'll know if he's having a moment.  In 21st century politics nobody has a moment unless it's on film.

    Unless he can, on film, show that he's not on the defense on this issue and turn it into a leadership issue it's not his moment.  At best it's just a clarification that he's not a flip flopper. (Since they already have him on film saying what he just said he stands by).


    It is a moment where the sound policy is opposed as a result of bigotry and/or ignorance.

    By that definition - it is is the moment of the persons doing the opposing.  You may be right there.  Because there are a lot of bigoted and/or ignorant people who vote.


    With REAL ID (none / 0) (#16)
    by archpundit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 10:40:01 AM EST
    It becomes a federal issue.  

    That may be (none / 0) (#19)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 10:58:12 AM EST
    but so far Obama hasn't turned the discussion into a discussion of federal policy.  As long as the public hears and discusses Spitzer's plan or any other state's plan (including all the reasons a STATE might want to do this) - it's a state issue and is a distraction.  

    The question arises out of a Tim Russert gotcha moment for Hillary.  No one, including Obama, has managed to turn the gotcha question away from a gotcha question and into a real discussion of policy.  

    IF he does it tonight it could be his moment.  So far it's not his moment.  imo.


    And That's a Problem With Russert (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by archpundit on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:16:41 PM EST
    But Obama has introduced amendments with Baucus and Grassley to change the employment verification requirements with REAL ID so I have a hard time not seeing it as a federal issue that he has taken  a position on

    The federal government is largely taking over the driver's license issuance regulations especially related to immigration.  Part of what Spitzer was dealing with was getting permission from DHS as well.  

    It's true that Russert doesn't understand the issue and boiled it down to a gotcha question on state issues, but that actually says to me Clinton doesn't get the problem in that she didn't respond by talking about REAL ID requirements.


    As I said in my comment (none / 0) (#32)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 03:10:23 PM EST
    I don't disagree with Obama's stand on the policy.  My disagreement with A has nothing to do with the underlying issue or the policy.  

    I disagree with his statement that Obama's aide (not even Obama) giving an interview and stating that Obama stands by his previous (recorded) statement is a "great and powerful moment", in fact his "finest moment".  

    And note that his aide didn't tie in his position to any federal legislation that he may have sponsored.   He tied his position to Obama's actions vis-à-vis state law when he was in the state legislature.  I continue to think that talking about state law in a presidential campaign is a distraction from bigger issues.  

    I just don't see how this interview where he didn't even make the statement himself and the statment wasn't more than an affirmation of what he said a few weeks ago, could rise to the level of his finest moment.  If it is the finest he can do - I'm not impressed.  


    Documentation (none / 0) (#13)
    by mtj on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 10:23:55 AM EST
        I applaud Obama's position on this issue. This  is the type of leadership I expect from him.   However, when I lived in San Diego, most people assumed that phony documentation (birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc) were readily available and relatively cheap (depending on quality).  Those could be used to obtain valid IDs like driver's licenses. Occasionally, a local TV reporter would go to Tijuana to purchase phony docs. I can't imagine that many undocumented residents would be willing to carry a license that flags them as being here illegally. I also find it difficult to believe that they would willingly go to a government office and declare their status. Spitzer's program  was laudable in it's intent but I just don't think this type of program will work.

    Exactamundo. (none / 0) (#22)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 12:05:19 PM EST
    I can't imagine that many undocumented residents would be willing to carry a license that flags them as being here illegally.
    The widely (and often inaccurately, by TL) referenced New Mexico DL program does not offer different DL's to undocumented illegal immigrants than it does to legal residents. No "flags" for them.

    But..but..but (none / 0) (#33)
    by Alien Abductee on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 03:23:19 PM EST
    David Broder says a "very smart Democrat" told him that he's worried about his party's ability to counter Republicans on the illegal immigration issue and that pandering to the bigot vote is the smart way to go.

    IF Obama (none / 0) (#35)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 03:33:01 PM EST
     or any other candidate proclaims he supports any state program which provides official documents to illegal aliens which make it easier for the illegal aliens to evade detection and procure privileges and benfits to which they are not lawfully entitled it will indeed be a moment of great courage-- the courage to be publicly stupid beyond comprehension and self-destruct one's candidacy.

      Issuing DLs to illegal aliens which do not designate the holder's legal  residency  status is profoundly bad policy and worse politics. I don't care if it's Joseph Smith from Kent or Jose Smits from Cancun, government should not deliberately and willfully assist people in committing fraud. Anyone who does not understand the many ways in which possession of a valid DL assists in many forms of fraud is not bright enough to be President.

    Nothing worse than a flip-flopper (none / 0) (#37)
    by diogenes on Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 09:11:39 PM EST
    Obama stands on an unpopular position.  Whether or not you agree with him on this one, the fact is that people respect a leader who takes a stand.  There really were independent voters who voted for Bush because although they disagreed with him they at least were sure of where he stood, and they distrusted politician's promises in general.