King is arguing that illegal immigration is a national security matter and that it is the responsibility of federal legislators, and the federal government, to deal with national security issues.
“I believe strongly that the federal government has the right to do it because illegal immigration and homeland security are federal issues,” King, who is a Republican co-chair of the congressional Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs, said.
“What Eliot Spitzer is doing in New York highlights to me how dangerous this is and why we have to stop it,” King told Newsday.
King, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee and formerly its chairman, will introduce the bill along with Rep. Pete Sessions from Texas.
If it becomes law, the bill would stop New York or any other state from giving driver’s licenses to the illegal or undocumented because it would mandate production of a valid social security number during the application process.
When he first announced his initiative in September, Spitzer was hailed by advocates for the undocumented Irish who saw the plan as a means by which undocumented Irish immigrants could continue to work and function in New York even as they awaited long hoped for, and long delayed, comprehensive immigration reform from Washington.
The counter move, those same advocates will this week take note, is now coming from a legislator whose track record on Irish issues goes back close to thirty years.
According to a New York Post report, Rep. King said he decided on the legislation after hearing Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff say that although he opposed giving illegal immigrants driver’s licenses, there was nothing the federal government could do to stop a state from doing so.
The fate of King’s bill is uncertain, however. It will attempt to secure floor time in a House that is currently controlled by the Democrats who have a 233-200 majority with two current vacancies.
218 votes is a normal majority in the 435-member House.
The issue of licenses for illegals has spilled into the presidential race and reports have indicated active encouragement and input from GOP frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani for King’s bill.
The issue has caused confusion in Democratic ranks with Hillary Rodham Clinton drawing fire from White House party rivals when she recently delivered an apparently contradictory response to a question about the Spitzer move in a candidates’ debate.
Perhaps even more worrying to immigrant advocates is that Spitzer has indicated that he might long finger a plan which has grown to a three-tier one in which two kinds of license would comply with federal regulations, as contained in the REAL ID Act, while one form of license would be available to anyone qualified to drive and regardless of whether he or she could produce a valid social security number.
A New York Times report last weekend stated that Spitzer “reeling from relentless criticism of his plan to issue driver’s license to illegal immigrants” had indicated that he had not ruled out “shelving” the idea.