December 7, 2007
Blunt makes forging
Last week, Gov. Matt Blunt had a press conference in Kansas City to announce his intention to introduce legislation making it illegal — not for undocumented people to obtain driver’s licenses — but illegal for people to use forged documents in helping undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Unfortunately, what the governor wants to make illegal, is already illegal.
The press conference was held at Kansas City Police Headquarters. Blunt stood in front of a large sign that read “No Drivers Licenses,” surrounded by Republican Party representatives and his director of Homeland Security, Mark James, and announced “Missouri would not go the way of New York.”
This was a reference to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer who had recently attempted to return to a policy that was in place in the past. That policy granted drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants if they were able to provide identification. Spitzer had the support of two high-profile individuals: former New York City police chief William J. Bratton, and former White House counter-terrorism czar under Clinton and Bush I and II, Richard Clarke.
In a story in the New York Times City Room section by Sewell Chan, Bratton stated that this policy “has the potential to solve crimes and improve traffic safety.” He went on to state that by requiring identification, there can be a reduction the number of hit and runs, and an increase the number of insured motorists.
The brouhaha over this issue hit the news like a Brittany Spears scandal and it was quickly squashed — unlike a Brittany Spears scandal. Presumably, Blunt’s motive at the press conference was to impress upon the people of Missouri that “no illegals” would be getting the privilege of a driver’s license.
Blunt said the legislation would make forging documents to use in obtaining a driver’s license illegal. When a reported pointed out that this was already illegal, the governor said, “This would be an additional penalty.”
While the governor said the Department of Public Safety would be the lead agency on this issue, he did not answer the question about who would be actually authenticating the documents. Normally, the workers at the Department of Motor Vehicles look at the documents brought in by potential drivers’ licensees. What would happen if the woman at the counter authenticated a forged document? No comment from the governor.
The governor said he was “responding to citizen complaints” when asked why he was doing this now. One reporter, Amy Hawley from KSHB TV 41, asked, “Isn’t this just an election year stunt?” Which was quickly denied by Blunt, who is running for re-election against State Attorney General Jay Nixon next year, his likely Democratic challenger.
Blunt also denied that he was enlisting local police departments to become an arm of ICE — Immigration Customs Enforcement.
However, in an interview with Major Bret Johnson with the Public Information Office, Johnson noted that there is an authorization called the 287 G Program, which will allow Highway Patrol troopers to be deputized as ICE agents.
The 287 G program is part of the Federal Immigration and Nationality Act. The “287” refers to the section of the bill which delegates some enforcement power from Congress to the states to be combined with the inherent arrest authority that lies with the states, according to congressional testimony by Kris Kobach, law professor at UMKC School of Law. According to Johnson, that program has not been funded.
During the press conference, Blunt continuously used the word “criminals” and “illegal” when referring to the undocumented immigrants at whom the legislation is aimed. Yet, according to the Highway Patrol, tracking the immigration status of people who are detained has already begun.
“After the governor signed the executive order in August is when we started tracking the status,” said Johnson.
Since that time, 110 have been detained, individuals who had no proof of legal residency. Nearly all of the detainees where stopped for traffic violations, Johnson said.
It would seem the “criminals” Blunt spoke about were mostly people without a driver’s license, a tail light out or had been stopped for some other traffic or car –related infraction.
An immigration check is now run on all people who are incarcerated.
Vicki Walker is a free-lance writer and host of KC Media Watch Dogs on KKFI. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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