NY Governor Spitzer made news a few days ago by announcing that unlawfully present immigrants would be able to secure drivers licenses. Today his office announced that a deal was struck with the Department of Homeland Security and New York State will now issue three kinds of drivers licenses. An "enhanced" license will be as secure as a passport and will suffice as a form of identification for travel in and out of Canada under new border restriction rules. A second form of license will meet REAL ID standards and will not be available to those unlawfully present in the US. A third form of license will be available that states that it is not a valid form of federal identification.

Some immigration advocacy groups are complaining that the governor has caved in and the new identification is basically an "arrest me for being an illegal immigrant" card. New York government officials would not confirm whether possessing the card would constitute probable cause that a person is in the US unlawfully.

I can speak from a little experience here, however, in saying that the third tier licenses are likely to be popular. Tennessee started a system like this a few years ago where a drivers certificate was made available to undocumented immigrants and those legally here, but not possessing a social security number (like the spouse of an H-1B). The document looked like a regular drivers license but was marked clearly with a statement indicating the card was not a legal form of identification. The drivers' certificates were extremely popular. The certificates were recently dropped as anti-immigrant political power in the state legislature intensified and legislation was passed scrapping them.

Thanks to the reader who sent me this tip.