Angry New Yorker

Friday, February 18, 2005
More madness from the Manhattan Judiciary...

We're working to get our hands on the opinion to learn the actual holding's grounds , but while its true that the federal government can't "commander" state executive officers to enforce federal law (see Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 925 (1997) (holding "[t]he federal government may not compel the states to implement, by legislation or executive action, federal regulatory programs."), available at here), this strikes us a completely different situation.

In addition, if the Senate signs off on the recent House bill that mandates no driver's licenses for illegal aliens, then the Federal legisation would expressly preempt state laws on the issue and the fact that the state executives would, in theory, be required to do something, isn't a specific commandeering, but a standards setting, which happens all the time in Federal/State relations.
It's also interesting how the Time and the parties involved categorize this an "immigrant" issue, when everyone involved knows that it's an illegal immigrant problem, not an "immigrant" problem. If a citizen didn't have a social security number or adequate documentation necessary to get a license your denial wouldn't be an immigrant issue would it? Of course not.

The real issue, in our opinion, is the notice and hearing matter that's part and parcel of substantive due process claims. Many, though not all, license types are considered "property" for legal purposes, and therefore cancelling the license without an adequate administrative hearing runs into due process violations. It sounds like something along these lines was argued here. We'll see.

However, the fact that illegal aliens even have standing to raise this issue to gain a benefit that they shouldn't even have in the first place is infuriating.

From today's New York Times:

License Denials for Immigrants Are Blocked

A judge ordered yesterday that the state stop taking away the driver's licenses of immigrants in New York who do not have Social Security cards, saying that the Department of Motor Vehicles is not authorized to enforce immigration law or to make new rules without public notice.

The department began a license crackdown last year that was expected to result in the loss of driving privileges for as many as 300,000 immigrants in New York State this year and has already led to the suspension of about 7,000 licenses.

The order by Justice Karen S. Smith of State Supreme Court in Manhattan was temporary, but lawyers on both sides said it reflected her preliminary opinion that immigrant drivers would suffer irreparable harm unless the crackdown was stopped while the court considers a class-action lawsuit brought on their behalf, and that the immigrants' suit was likely to prevail.

It was filed last summer against Gov. George E. Pataki and Raymond Martinez, the motor vehicles commissioner, by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. It was brought on behalf of New Yorkers who have been denied a driver's license or identity card for lack of a verifiable Social Security number or an immigration document satisfactory to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

* * *

Elizabeth Forman, an assistant state attorney general representing the government, said no decision had been made about whether to appeal the order, which temporarily bars the state from denying the renewal of licenses because of immigration status, but does not affect its handling of new license applications.

The judge's order also requires the state to give the plaintiffs 48 hours' notice before sending out letters suspending the licenses of tens of thousands of other drivers. As a practical matter, no more suspensions are likely to occur until after hearing April 7 on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.

Among those who sued the state are a 60-year-old licensed asbestos remover who worked in the World Trade Center cleanup, a teenage refugee from Albania, and the Irish father of an American-born infant who needs to be driven to medical treatment for her seizures.

Most are in the country without legal authorization, the court papers say, but two who are in the United States legally also were denied licenses by clerks without notice or chance for redress, the lawsuit said.

New York is among a dozen states that by law do not limit driver's licenses to legal residents. In the mid-1990's, to improve child-support enforcement, New York, like most states, added a requirement that license applicants provide a Social Security number.

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