The Safety-First Petition for New York State sign now

We support Governor Eliot Spitzer's common-sense initiative to strengthen Homeland Security efforts across our state by licensing a population that previously had no public records (undocumented workers).

Fact: According to the Automobile Association of America's "Unlicensed to Kill" report, as it is now unlicensed drivers are five time more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash (see more on this below; go to AAAfoundation.org/pdf/unlicensed2kill.PDF for full report).

Fact: As it is already there are literally tens of thousands of undocumented, unlicensed, uninsured drivers driving on NYS roads.
[see NY.gov/governor/press/0921071.html]

Fact: As it is already Dutchess County residents with car insurance pay the costs now when those without car insurance have accidents.
[see NY.gov/governor/press/0921071.html]

Fact: Spitzer's plan will save Dutchess County drivers and drivers across the state a whopping $120 million a year on car insurance costs-- based on what's happened in eight other states who smartly followed this route-- Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
[see NY.gov/governor/press/0921071.html]

State Police Acting Superintendent Preston Felton: DMVs new steps to increase security and validate identification will reduce fraud and increase safety. Ensuring more of our drivers are properly licensed and qualified to drive results in safer streets.
[see NY.gov/governor/press/0921071.html]

Former Republican state Senator "Michael Balboni, New York's homeland security chief, said the new system actually improves security because it creates public records that police and others can use to ensure true identities," as reported in an Associated Press article by Ben Dobbin in the Albany Times-Union September 28th:
TimesUnion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=625654&category=STATE&BCCode.

NYS AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes: We applaud Governor Spitzer for his actions today. Equal access to a driver's license, regardless of immigration status, is essential to the public safety and well-being of all New Yorkers.
[see NY.gov/governor/press/0921071.html]

These three paragraphs are from a September 21st article in the Poughkeepsie Journal by Dan Osborn (PoughkeepsieJournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070921/NEWS01/70921042):

"Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Bronx, said he supported Spitzer's decision. 'The DMV is not an arm of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, nor should it be,' he said in a statement. 'The DMV is responsible for keeping our roads safe by ensuring that the drivers know how to drive, and revoking driving privileges from those who repeatedly violate road safety laws.'

Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said, 'This is a win-win policy for both immigrants and all New Yorkers. We see this as a giant step forward for public security,' she said. Hong explained that, "Since insurance is required to drive, the new policy will increase the number of insured drivers. The new security measures in place will make it harder to fake driving identification,' she said.

According to the New York Coalition for Immigrants Rights to Drivers Licenses, the Social Security number requirement has also been a problem for legal immigrants who are in the midst of paperwork and have long waiting periods and others. The group estimates close to half a million people will be affected by the change."

From the Poughkeepsie Journal September 27th: "County Legislator Fred Bunnell, D-Poughkeepsie, said the Republicans are unnecessarily injecting politics into an issue of public safety. The immigrants who stand to benefit from the new policy, he said, are here to work and should be able to acquire driver's licenses. 'They're here because there's a lot of employers in the county who want them here,' Bunnell said. 'They are seen by our business community as critical to our economy.'
[PoughkeepsieJournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070927/NEWS01/709270326/1006/NEWS]

Let's recognize this for what it is-- a calculating, cynical, and desperate political ploy by Republicans in our county to make an issue to divert focus on the really important county issues-- clean water, lower taxes, stopping sprawl, and now a dysfunctional public transportation system-- issues they have clearly made a mess of in Dutchess; despite Republicans' shameless attack on Spitzer for "pandering" (see below), the fact is that they are the ones shamelessly pandering to the basest, racist, xenophobic fears still unfortunately held by their right-wing base in Dutchess.

Enough; we deserve better-- much better; say yes to safety first-- and no to political pandering.

If you agree sign on to this petition, pass it along to all you know, contact our County Legislature at [email protected], and our state legislature at (877) 255-9417.

Joel Tyner
County Legislator
Clinton/Rhinebeck
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
(845) 876-2488

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"Lawmakers call for halt to license plan: Security a concern in Spitzer policy for immigrants"
By John Davis (9/26/07) Poughkeepsie Journal
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070926/NEWS01/709260321/1006/NEWS
[excerpt here below]

This is far more important than pandering to some group.
-- Joel Miller

[this comment in response to article posted online (by someone else) to Journal website: "Instead of serving the public interest, these politicians are inflaming the very scary nativist populist impulses that seem popular these days. Miller claims that Spitzer is pandering. So who's pandering now, Joel Miller?"]

State and county Republican lawmakers are calling on Gov. Eliot Spitzer to rescind his decision to grant driver's licenses to immigrants who don't have Social Security numbers.

Bradford Kendall said as county clerk he will seek permission to opt out of allowing the county DMV to issue driver's licenses to those without Social Security numbers. The Republicans in the county Legislature plan to introduce a resolution in October opposing Spitzer's new policy.

[note-- this is long after the September 14th deadline for submitting resolutions-- grossly inconsistent on the part of Republicans to do this-- clearly shows their hand for political maneuvering they're up to here]

Spitzer announced his new policy Friday. The directive is the fulfillment of a campaign promise to bring hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and into the system.

After a comprehensive review, (Department of Motor Vehicles) has developed changes that will increase the security of our license system by obtaining better and more verifiable information from applicants, which will decrease the number of uninsured drivers on the roads, lower auto insurance rates for all drivers and, when necessary, help law enforcement agencies in their investigations, Spitzer said in a prepared statement.

Phase one of Spitzer's policy begins immediately. The state DMV will notify by mail 152,000 New Yorkers who at one point were unable to renew their driver's licenses because they lack Social Security numbers. In six to eight months Phase two will open the application process to all New Yorkers.

Listening to the GOP lawmakers Tuesday was Edgar Reza, 20, a former resident of Mexico and student at Dutchess Community College. He said he is seeking to obtain a driver's license. Reza said he has a Social Security number, but lacks other documentation. I'm just trying to better myself, he said.

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Fact: "Overall, annual taxes paid by immigrants to all levels of governments more than offset the costs of services received, generating a net annual surplus of $25 billion to $30 billion."
[from the Urban Institute: "Immigration and Immigrants: Setting the Record Straight"
by Michael E. Fix and Jeffrey S. Passell
Urban.org/Publications/305184.html]

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Fact: "The Texas Comptrollers office estimates the absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our Gross State Product of $17.7 billion. Also, the Comptrollers office estimates that state revenues collected from undocumented immigrants exceed what the state spent on services, with the difference being $424.7 million."
[Texas Comptroller 12/8/06:
GritsforBreakfast.blogspot.com/2006/12/comptroller-undocumented-immigrants.html]

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"One widespread myth about recent immigrants is that they take advantage of our welfare state. However, most immigrants are not even eligible for public assistance when they first arrive. Legal immigrants who are not refugees are not allowed to receive public welfare benefits until they have lived here at least three years. Immigrants who are sponsored by a family member - roughly 70 percent of total legal immigrants - cannot receive public assistance until they have been in the U.S. for at least five years. Although immigrants receive less assistance from the federal government, the average immigrant family pays more in taxes than the average American-born family. The Survey of Income and Education reported in 1976 that the average American-born family paid $3,008 in taxes per year. In comparison, immigrant families who had been in the United States 10 years or less paid $3,369. A 1995 Cato Institute study found that illegal immigrants paid approximately 46 percent as much in taxes as American-born citizens, but they received only 38 percent as much from the government. Also, contrary to popular belief, the majority of illegal immigrants were not destitute fence-jumpers but were middle-class tourists or students who overstayed their visas."
[from "Immigrants, Welfare, and Work" by Lauren Mutti
National Center for Policy Analysis (6/24/02)
NCPA.org/pub/ba/ba400/]

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From http://www.ny.gov/governor/press/0921071.html...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 21, 2007

DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES CHANGES LICENSE POLICY TO INCLUDE MORE NEW YORKERS AND IMPLEMENTS NEW REGIME OF ANTI-FRAUD MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN THE SECURITY OF THE SYSTEM
Improves Safety of New York Streets, Lowers Auto Insurance Rates and Brings more New Yorkers into the System

Governor Eliot Spitzer and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner David Swarts today announced an administrative policy change that will give all New Yorkers the opportunity to apply for state driver licenses without regard to immigration status. Tied to the policy change, the Governor and Commissioner also announced plans to implement a new regime of anti-fraud measures to increase the security of the licensing system as a new population of New Yorkers comes into the system.

The DMV estimates that tens of thousands of undocumented, unlicensed and uninsured drivers are currently on New Yorks roads, contributing to increased accidents and hit-and-runs as well as higher auto insurance rates. In addition, bringing more New Yorkers into the system will ensure a greater number of people have a license record that, if necessary, can be used to enhance law enforcement efforts.

I applaud the DMV and Commissioner Swarts for making this commonsense change that deals practically with the reality that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants live among us and that allowing them the opportunity to obtain driver licenses in a responsible and secure manner will help increase public safety, said Governor Eliot Spitzer. After a comprehensive review, DMV has developed changes that will increase the security of our license system by obtaining better and more verifiable information from applicants, which will decrease the number of uninsured drivers on the roads, lower auto insurance rates for all drivers and, when necessary help law enforcement agencies in their investigations.

Commissioner Swarts said: This policy change allows the DMV to focus its resources on its core mission to ensure that every person driving on our roads is fit to drive and can prove his or her identity. Currently, too many drivers are unlicensed and uninsured simply because they do not have a social security number. Rather than bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem does not exist, today we are choosing to confront it and in doing so greatly improve the safety of our roads.

To ensure a smooth transition without disruption to regular customer service, the implementation of the policy change will take place in two phases:

Phase 1 will begin immediately. Informational letters from DMV will be sent to the approximately 152,000 New Yorkers, who at one point had (or currently have) a New York State license, but are unable to renew it because of the previous administrative policy. DMV will notify these former and current license holders of the policy change and will begin the re-licensing process at the end of 2007. Those affected will still need to prove their identity, date of birth and fitness to drive before being issued a new license.

Phase 2 will begin six to eight months after Phase 1 and will open the application process to all New Yorkers.

The time period between phases will allow the DMV to make the necessary infrastructure and staffing improvements to accommodate the expected increase in customer volume while maintaining the highest level of customer service and anti-fraud security.

The benefits of this policy change include:

Safer Streets: In its report, Unlicensed to Kill, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that unlicensed drivers are almost five times more likely to be in a fatal crash than are validly licensed drivers.

Lower Insurance Rates: The State Department of Insurance estimates that expanded license access will reduce the premium costs associated with uninsured motorist coverage by 34\% which will save New York drivers $120 million each year. Other states with similar policies have seen their auto insurance rates drop as well.

Safer Homeland: This policy change helps bolster homeland security by bringing more individuals into the system and, when necessary, assisting law enforcement efforts to locate those who present a real security threat.

The new policy will apply to all state-issued licenses that are not governed by certain federal laws that require a social security number, like commercial driver licenses and hazardous materials endorsements. Currently, eight other states Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington do not require drivers to prove legal status in order to obtain a license. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: When the previous Governor changed the requirements for law-abiding immigrant citizens to obtain a drivers license, the Assembly Majority held public hearings and urged the Pataki Administration to change the regulations. But it took a change in the administration to get where we are today. I applaud Governor Spitzer for his actions. To deny law-abiding immigrant New Yorkers access to a drivers license and make it more difficult for hardworking families to get to work, the hospital or even get their children to school is to admit that terrorism has won.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith said: I am pleased to endorse this very fair and reasonable change in policy by the Spitzer administration. This change will enhance public safety while allowing driver licenses to be granted to those able to meet reasonable standards of proof of identity.

State Police Acting Superintendent Preston Felton said: DMVs new steps to increase security and validate identification will reduce fraud and increase safety. Ensuring more of our drivers are properly licensed and qualified to drive results in safer streets.

State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo said: Now, people with insurance pay the costs when people without insurance have accidents. Thats not right. Experience in other states makes it clear that when drivers have licenses, they are much more likely to buy insurance. We project that this program will substantially cut the cost of uninsured drivers and that means millions of dollars in savings on auto insurance.

Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Michael Balboni said: We have been meticulous in ensuring that this change in policy, and the new security measures we are putting in place, strengthen our homeland security efforts by licensing a population of New Yorkers who previously had no public records.

Margaret Stock, an immigration and national security law expert who is an Attorney and Lieutenant Colonel in the Military Police, US Army Reserve, is currently assigned as a part-time Associate Professor at the US Military Academy at West Point. Ms. Stock, who is also chair of the International Security Affairs Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, said: New York States new policy will enhance the security of New Yorkers and all Americans. Granting driver licenses to all residents of a state who can prove their identity allows law enforcement officials to find persons who may be security threats, and gives law enforcement officials more tools to prevent and solve crimes.

President of the New York State AFL-CIO Denis Hughes said: We applaud Governor Spitzer for his actions today. Equal access to a driver's license, regardless of immigration status, is essential to the public safety and well-being of all New Yorkers.

Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Co-Founder of the New York Coalition for Immigrants Rights to Drivers Licenses said: Our states new drivers license policy is a win-win for immigrants and for all New Yorkers. Not only does it enable more New Yorkers to get licensed and insured, making our roads much safer, but its going to make our licensing system far more secure and immune to fraud. We applaud the Governor for developing a smart and fair solution that can serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

Amy Sugimori, co-chair of the New York Coalition for Immigrants Rights to Drivers Licenses said: Todays announcement is a huge victory for the immigrant, civil rights and labor movements. For four years, diverse groups from across the state have been working to ensure that all New Yorkers are treated equally by the government. Today our voices are being heard. We applaud Governor Spitzer for his leadership as he sends a strong message to the country that second-class treatment of immigrants is bad public policy.

State law requires license applicants to prove their identity, date of birth and fitness to drive, and to provide a social security number (SSN). The SSN requirement was added in 1995 as part of an effort to punish parents who were not paying child support. In 2002, a state regulation was adopted to allow applicants who are ineligible for a SSN to also apply for driver licenses. Following this step, the DMV then issued an administrative policy that effectively made it impossible for illegal immigrants to obtain driver licenses by stipulating that the only way to define ineligibility would be through obtaining a formal letter of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration, a letter that is only obtainable by individuals who have legal immigration status.

It is this last administrative policy that the DMV is changing. Starting in the phases discussed above, license applicants will check a box on the license application that states that the applicant is not eligible to receive a social security number. Instead of presenting a SSN or a letter of ineligibility, individuals instead will provide a current foreign passport and other valid and verifiable documents to prove identity. As such, the DMV will be able to achieve its primary goal in issuing licenses, which is to ensure that the initial who is receiving the license is not misrepresenting themselves to obtain a fraudulent identity card, and controlling who has access to driving motor vehicles

The DMVs new anti-fraud measures will make the current system even more secure in a number of ways. It will utilize new state-of-the-art document verification technology, including photograph comparison tools and specially-trained staff with expertise in foreign-sourced identity documents, and a proposal to implement a residency requirement for all state license holders.

The DMVs secure 6-point ID requirement will be based on an expanded list of valid and verifiable documents. Along with the other identity documents currently on the list, individuals identities will be verified using this new document verification technology to reduce the potential for fraud.

The DMV has begun a pilot program to test photo comparison technology, which will prevent a person from obtaining more than one license under more than one name. Currently, 18 states use photo comparison technology as part of their fraud-protection system.

The DMV will also train personnel in verifying foreign-sourced identity documents.

Finally, as a further fraud-prevention measure, the DMV will propose to require a license applicant prove his or her New York State residency in order to be eligible for a state-issued license. Currently, 27 states have such residency requirements.

There will be no increase to the current license fee as a result of these changes.

For more information, please go to www.nysdmv.com.

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From http://www.smartmotorist.com/sus/sus.htm ...

One Fatal Crash In Five Involves An Unlicensed Driver - AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Drivers with invalid licenses were far more likely to have been driving drunk and to have had multiple suspensions or revocations in the three years before the crash.

Drivers who do not have valid licenses are involved in 20 percent of fatal crashes, a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows. "One fatal crash in five involves a driver who is not properly licensed," says David Willis, President of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "These scofflaws pose a serious threat to law-abiding motorists."

The study was performed by Dr. Lindsay Griffin of the Texas Transportation Institute, who used crash data from the Department of Transportations Fatality Analysis Reporting System. "Drivers operating on invalid licenses at the time of their fatal crashes are different from the rest of us," Dr. Griffin says. "Not only were their licenses invalid, but 28 percent of them had received three or more license suspensions or revocations in the three years before their crashes. These are not just ordinary people who forgot to renew."

Dr. Griffin examined five years of fatal crash data, identifying each drivers license status. Drivers with invalid licenses were far more likely to have been driving drunk and to have had multiple suspensions or revocations in the three years before the crash. In addition, the incidence of improper licensing varied widely by state. Maine had the lowest incidence, with 6.9 percent.

The state with the highest proportion of invalidly licensed drivers was New Mexico, where 23.9 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were either unlicensed, operating on an invalid license, or of unknown license status. .... Other high-risk jurisdictions included the District of Columbia, Arizona, California, and Hawaii. An earlier study by Streff and Eby found that 30 to 70 percent of drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked may continue to drive, Griffin said.

What can be done to combat this scourge? "Unlicensed drivers need to be prevented from driving," says Willis. Vehicle immobilization or impoundment for drivers who have had their licenses taken away could be one effective approach, the study suggests. Another promising high-tech solution is an electronic "smart-card" drivers license. This credit card-like device contains a computer chip, without which a car cant be started. If the license is taken away by the licensing agency, the violator would be prevented from driving.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit charitable organization funded by donations from AAA and CAA clubs and members. Its safety education programs include teen driver education; antilock brake (ABS) safety; drowsy driving; aggressive driving and road rage; and older driver safety. Located in Washington, D.C., the Foundation has been devoted to preventing crashes and saving lives through research and education since 1947. Visit the Foundation's web page at http://www.aaafts.org/ for more information about its activities.

Deadly Drivers - USA Today

One in every 5 fatal traffic accidents involves a driver with a suspended, revoked or otherwise invalid license.

When judges suspend or revoke a driver's license, it's meant to be strong punishment for the driver and serious protection for others on the road. Too bad so many people just keep driving. A startling number drive themselves or others to an early death.

According to a report Tuesday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in every 5 fatal traffic accidents involves a driver with a suspended, revoked or otherwise invalid license -- crashes that killed more than 42,000 people between 1993 and 1997. Half of those illegal drivers also were under the influence of alcohol, AAA found.

Evidence that dangerous drivers neither respect the law nor fear it is overwhelming. Many of the drivers AAA tracked had tallied up three license suspensions in the three years before their fatal accidents.

States are well aware of the problem.

Last year, Maryland authorities summoned dozens of motorists with suspended or revoked licenses to the Howard County courthouse to check in with monitors. More than a third, 28 motorists, were arrested on the spot: They'd driven themselves to court.

Maryland's sting confirmed findings from earlier studies showing that as many as 70\% of motorists ignore suspensions and revocations and continue to drive.

So how can the most dangerous drivers be driven off the road? By separating scofflaws from their vehicles when their licenses are suspended, traffic-safety experts suggest. And by ensuring that scofflaws who kill others face strong punishment, including jail time.

A few states are moving toward tougher penalties, according to National Transportation Safety Board and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

* In Minnesota, police are confiscating the license plates of drivers after repeated drunken-driving convictions.

* In California, police are impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers or those with revoked licenses.

* In Ohio, police are immobilizing such vehicles.

More states have laws that are just as tough. Too often, though, they're reserved for multiple offenders, or judges are reluctant to use them, fearful of punishing innocent family members by taking away a family's car.

But failing to do so leaves other innocents at risk from the accidents caused by unlawful drivers.

Yes, they will drive without a license. Perhaps they won't drive without a car.

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From "Illegal Immigrants are Paying a Lot More Taxes Than You Think: Eight Million Illegals Pay Social Security, Medicare, and Income Taxes" by Shikha Dalmia [Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service]
[see http://www.reason.org/commentaries/dalmia_20060501.shtml ]

A stunning two-thirds of illegal immigrants pay Medicare, Social Security and personal income taxes. In reality, the 1996 welfare reform bill disqualified illegal immigrants from nearly all means-tested government programs including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid and Medicare-funded hospitalization. The only services that illegals can still get are emergency medical care and K-12 education.

But, immigrants aren't flocking to the United States to mooch off the government. According to a study by the Urban Institute, the 1996 welfare reform effort dramatically reduced the use of welfare by undocumented immigrant households, exactly as intended. And another vital thing happened in 1996: the Internal Revenue Service began issuing identification numbers to enable illegal immigrants who don't have Social Security numbers to file taxes.

One might have imagined that those fearing deportation or confronting the prospect of paying for their safety net through their own meager wages would take a pass on the IRS' scheme. Not so. Close to 8 million of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in the country today file personal income taxes using these numbers, contributing billions to federal coffers. No doubt they hope that this will one day help them acquire legal status a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows.

What's more, aliens who are not self-employed have Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks. Since undocumented workers have only fake numbers, they'll never be able to collect the benefits these taxes are meant to pay for. Last year, the revenues from these fake numbers that the Social Security administration stashes in the earnings suspense file added up to 10 percent of the Social Security surplus. The file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year.

Beyond federal taxes, all illegals automatically pay state sales taxes that contribute toward the upkeep of public facilities such as roads that they use, and property taxes through their rent that contribute toward the schooling of their children. The non-partisan National Research Council found that when the taxes paid by the children of low-skilled immigrant families most of whom are illegal are factored in, they contribute on average $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume.

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From "Study Finds Immigrants Don't Hurt U.S. Jobs: Pew Detects No Link to Unemployment"
by Kim Hart (Washington Post 8/11/06)...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/10/AR2006081001711_pf.html

High levels of immigration in the past 15 years do not appear to have hurt employment opportunities for American workers, according to a new report. The Pew Hispanic Center analyzed immigration state by state using U.S. Census data, evaluating it against unemployment levels. No clear correlation between the two could be found. Other factors, such as economic growth, have likely played a larger role in influencing the American job market, said Rakesh Kochhar, principal author of the report and an economist at the Pew Hispanic Center in the District. "We are simply looking for a pattern across 50 states, and we did not find one," Kochhar said. "We cannot say with certainty that growth in the foreign population has hurt or helped American jobs." Immigration policy is a central issue in this fall's congressional elections. The report's findings appear to refute the idea -- often voiced by supporters of stricter immigration laws -- that foreign workers depress wages and take jobs from American workers, especially those with less education and fewer skills. In the 10 states with the top employment rates from 2000 to 2004, for example, five states showed a high influx of immigrants while the other five showed little growth in the foreign-born population. "Even in relatively slow economic times, a relationship fails to reveal itself," Kochhar said.

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Check out this article below from Ana Perez of Global Exchange on what a real solution to this situation would be...

"Fair Immigration Means Fair Trade"
http://www.globalexchange.org/update/publications/3955.html

But one angle that has so far been missing from this dialogue is the role of U.S. corporate-led globalization in causing immigration. Corporate globalization displaces workers, drives down wages and makes it impossible for many people to earn a decent living in their own countries. Instead of dealing with the real causes of immigration, such as the links between U.S. policies and the desperate conditions that force millions to leave their home countries in search of work, Congress and the Bush administration are dead-bent on treating immigration as an isolated and independent phenomenon.

Unfair, anti-democratic and corporate-led U.S. trade policies are a major cause of immigration. NAFTA was sold as a great economic equalizer that would drastically reduce Mexican migration to the U.S., but an estimated 1.5 million rural families lost their livelihoodand thus faced displacementwhen NAFTA lifted barriers to agricultural imports. And real wages in the urban centers fell by more than 20 percent in NAFTA's first five years. So today, Mexico is the largest source of undocumented/hyper-exploited workers for the U.S. economy.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of immigrants to the United States from Mexico actually decreased by 18 percent in the three years before NAFTA's implementation. But since NAFTA, the annual number of immigrants from Mexico has increased by more than 61 percent.

Now, conservative Congresspersons are trying to extend NAFTA-style trade agreements to South America by pushing the Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) on Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. However, AFTA encountered strong grassroots opposition and has been all but scrappedand even most bilateral trade negotiations are mired in dispute.

Congress and the Bush administration's unwillingness to link immigration to corporate globalization is a clear example of this government's lack of commitment to fair immigration reform and a sustainable continental development strategy.

In fact, the same conservative legislators who voted last year to extend NAFTA to Central America and the Dominican Republic via the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) are now calling for draconian immigration legislation.

They have promoted a national immigration discourse plagued by racism and xenophobia, with Latino immigrants stereotyped as dangerous criminals or even terrorists who undermine the "American way of life."

The Sensenbrenner bill, passed by the House of Representatives, makes felons not only of all undocumented immigrants, but also of all health personnel, teachers, churches and employers who aid them. It further militarizes the U.S.-Mexico border and calls for an Israeli-style wall to be built.

Meanwhile new amendments have been added to the pending Senate immigration bill that create harsh obstacles to legalization, call for a new triple-layer fence on the border at a cost of $3 million a mile; new vehicle barriers, at $1.3 million a mile; and a proposal to hire thousands of new Border Patrol agents, at $170,000 eachand much more. The Congressional Budget office estimates the additional cost of the Senate bill at $25 billion between 2007 and 2011 and an eye-opening $66 billion by 2016. It also includes a guest worker bill designed to provide cheap, disposable labor to corporations, but with no provision for legalization or citizenship for guest workers.

Recently the Senate fanned the fires of anti-immigrant fear by passing an unnecessary bill making English the national language of the United States.

Luckily, immigrant actions signal a positive change in the level of civic engagement by the newest members of our society, and are likely to have important long-term impacts. Yet politicians have a hard time learning important lessons. Former Governor Pete Wilson paid dearly for pushing short-sighted anti-immigrant propositions 187 and 206 in California. In the end these campaigns galvanized the Latino population and its allies to gain citizenship and vote, and brought Wilson's political career to an end.

Now the Sensenbrenner bill is pushing millions of immigrants and their allies into the streets and undoubtedly will send a good number of immigrant sympathizers to the voting booth come next Novemberhopefully changing the balance of power and putting an end to the Republican political stranglehold.

The House's Sensenbrenner bill is a downright outrage. And the immigration bill under consideration by the Senate is also unfair and punitive. The outcome of a compromise between the two can only be disastrous for immigrants. Consequently the best outcome may be no new legislation at all until the political climate in Congress is changed and the Sensenbrenner bill lapses. No legislation is better than bad legislation.

Global Exchange's main contribution to the immigrant rights struggle is to help build and broaden the movement, especially by drawing the links between disparate struggles for peace and social justice. We are fighting for a trade policy based on pro-people, pro-environment development that will allow people in the Global South to live with dignity, whether in their home countries or in the United States.


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  • 07 December 201550. Brandon Ball
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  • 03 November 201549. George S
    STOP TAXING US TO DEATH Address; Zip Code 12204
  • 21 September 201548. The Revrichardw
    IN SUPPORT OF DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES DRIVERS LICENSES POLICY Address; Zip Code po box 4757 Poughkeepsie, NY 12602
  • 12 August 201547. Mary M
    Supporting Fairness and Safety for all New Yorkers Address; Zip Code 302 Garfield Place Apt 3, Brooklyn NY 11215
  • 04 June 201546. Caleb Caldwell
    I support this petition
  • 01 June 201545. Daniel Vt
    Sanity & Justice amidst Mob Rule Address; Zip Code 29 Jones Road, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
  • 09 April 201544. The Revdouglasf
    The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures implore us to come to the aid of the "orphan, the widow, the alien." Address; Zip Code Box 974, Millbrook, NY 12545
  • 18 February 201543. Manfred H
    another repug attack on immigrants Address; Zip Code 12601
  • 11 February 201542. Carmine M
    Equal access for Immigrants Address; Zip Code 302 Garfield Place Apt 3, Brooklyn NY 11215
  • 29 August 201441. Karl Jv
    lisence will establish a record Address; Zip Code 43 Whittier blvd,Poughkeepsie ,NY 12603
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  • 27 July 201439. Hannah W
    no one is illegal! Address; Zip Code 35-03 34th Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11106
  • 02 January 201438. Johanne R
    Accidents alter lives, sometimes catastophically. This initiative will insure that financial ruin is not part of the picture for insured motorists. It will also extend help to people who must struggle to support their families but cannot afford insurance.
  • 30 July 201337. James Elliottl
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  • 21 February 201335. Louise L
    this is a great move Address; Zip Code 12546
  • 22 January 201334. Jane C
    I agree with this intelligent approach by Gov. Spitzer. Address; Zip Code 5E Village Green, Rhinebeck, NY 12572
  • 26 July 201233. Marian Gt
    For the sake of all of us driving on the road, I'm glad to see that sanity is being restored vis a vis this issue. According to Newsweek, 33\% of drivers on the road were already uninsured before undocumented workers were denied licenses, and therefore be
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  • 12 March 201231. Doris K
    I support this resolution. Address; Zip Code 7 Susan Court, Hyde Park, NY 12538
  • 13 January 201230. Philip Mc
    compassion first. politics later Address; Zip Code 29 n.hamilton st. Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
  • 26 December 201129. Jordan W
    It's better this way. Address; Zip Code Albany, NY 12201
  • 19 September 201128. Diego H
    There should be an immigration reform to follow this big step Address; Zip Code 8201 Northern Boulevard, Apt. 3A, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
  • 03 September 201127. William As
    Spitzer has the right idea for our safety and to enable everyone to be able to live better Address; Zip Code Poughkeepsie 12601
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  • 07 June 201125. Joan G
    The title says it-safety first Address; Zip Code Hyde Park, 12538
  • 16 January 201124. Henrietta M
    I support Gov. Spitzer's plan to license undocumented workers. Address; Zip Code 12601

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Ophelia HuberBy:
International PolicyIn:
Petition target:
New York State residents

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