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New York Governor Spitzer on American Morning

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Below is a transcript of New York governor Eliot Spitzer's appearance on CNN's American Morning, October 30, 2007. He was interviewed by American Morning anchor Kiran Chetry.

CHETRY: There is some controversy swirling around New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, first for proposing a plan that would let illegal immigrants get driver's licenses. And then he changed the plan over the weekend, so now there's some new criticism from immigrant advocates who say it would unfairly target illegals.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer joins be now to talk about it.

Thanks for being with us, first of all, Governor.

GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: My pleasure. Good to be here.

CHETRY: So your original plan would have given illegal immigrants the same driver's license as everyone else. And that was highly criticized. In fact, 72 percent of New Yorkers polled said they were opposed to that plan.

Then you announced a new plan over the weekend. The editorial board of "The New York Times" called it caving.

So are you caving or are you just listening to the will of the people?

SPITZER: Well, in a way, neither. What we are trying to do, first of all, is address a problem that the federal government has created, which is that there are one million people here in New York state alone who are not here with proper documentation, but they're here.

We want security. We want our roads to be safe, which is the initial impetus behind letting them get a license so we know who they are, where they are. They can get insurance, everybody is safer.

Security experts agree with that premise. Seven other states do it. That is the initial objective.

What we've tried to do is do it in a way that does not create a structure that makes them feel targeted, creates security. Now, what we did over the weekend was reach an agreement with the director of Homeland Security on a structure that he said would make the New York license among the most secure in the nation.

That is what we are trying to do, provide security, documentation, know who is here. And what we have accomplished, I believe, is a compromise that does all of those things.

CHETRY: Unfortunately, you're getting criticism from the other side now because the immigration advocates are saying that because this license that only illegals or undocumented would qualify for...

SPITZER: No. Can I interrupt for one second? Because that is a fundamental misconception. This is a license. One would be what we would call a Real ID license...

CHETRY: right.

SPITZER: ... that would satisfy the federal Real ID statute.

CHETRY: Which they can't qualify for if they're undocumented.

SPITZER: That's right, because they -- but another license that I would get that would be a New York state license that everybody would qualify for with documentation, but it would not be limited to illegal immigrants at all. It would...

CHETRY: Wait, hold on. You're saying you would get the one...

SPITZER: Absolutely.

CHETRY: ... that says right clearly on it, not for U.S. government use? That would be...


SPITZER: No, no, no, no, no. It would say not valid for federal ID. And the reason is I have a passport, I have all sorts of other documentation.

The other one might cost more. It will be different, more difficult to get.

There will be two separate licenses. One that satisfies a federal Real ID statute, the other that doesn't. It would not be one license just for illegal immigrants.

CHETRY: So you disagree with the assertion that, hey, if you can get a license that clears you to go to Canada, that clears you to travel with ease, why wouldn't you get that one, as opposed to the one where only illegals would qualify for?

SPITZER: Many reasons. And that has been the record that has been established so far.

A Real ID license that people will get if they want to have perhaps an easier time at an airport. Another one if you already have a passport. You will not need to pay the extra fees, et cetera. So, two separate licenses. Both valid, both legitimate.

CHETRY: Now, critics are calling the plan confusing and a bureaucratic nightmare. Is it practical to try to implement...

SPITZER: Sure it is.

CHETRY: ... three different licenses?

SPITZER: Sure it is.

CHETRY: And do you know how much it will cost?

SPITZER: It's really two. The third is for the Canadian border contact, something we call an enhanced driver license pursuant to the Western Hemisphere travel initiative, a very separate issue that is a very important step forward for the economy in Buffalo and along the Canadian border.

Really two. One, if you want to satisfy Real ID, another if you don't.

It is easy. DMV would have an easy time implementing this. The cost would be no greater than the cost of implementing Real ID anyway. And so that is going to be a federally imposed obligation on us, despite what we choose to do.

CHETRY: One of your most vocal opponents has of course been right here in the walls of CNN, Lou Dobbs. He actually went as far last week as to call you an idiot before apologizing for saying that on the air.

Let's hear what he said last night.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I really don't care anymore about what this governor, this arrogant abuser of his office -- and the just absolute disdain with which he holds both the truth and the citizens of the state of New York. This man is sitting here putting together a three-tier system in which he is going to give voter registration privileges to people he knows are illegal?


CHETRY: Do illegal immigrants get voter registration privileges?

SPITZER: Look, I'm not going to demean myself by getting into a back and forth with somebody who on TV spews venom, hate and fundamental misinformation. Of course not. He knows it.

This has absolutely nothing to do with voting. This is something seven other states do for security.

The director of Homeland Security has said we improve security by knowing who is there. As I said, it's beneath me, it's beneath my office, to, in any way, involve myself with Lou Dobbs. And I think his knowing spread of venom is beneath CNN as well.

CHETRY: Now, so just that we're clear, though, if you're undocumented you will not be able to vote even if you do get this ID?

SPITZER: Of course not. Voting is limited to citizenship. This is getting a driver's license so we know who is driving so that fewer accidents and more security. Security is what we are about. Understand, we got into 9/11 because people wanted to ignore the problem. We're not ignoring the problem of the million people here in New York. We're confronting it.

Confronting it by saying they're here, let's know who they are, give them licenses, let us forge a system that permits us to improve security, which is precisely what the federal government has said we would do. Seven other states have done it.

The sort of racist venom that has underlined much of the criticism I think is shameful because what we are really talking about here is security and how we run our society.

CHETRY: Governor Spitzer, I'm glad you came on our show and had a chance to share your side. We appreciate it.

Thanks for being with us.

SPITZER: Thanks. Thank you very much. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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