Gov. Eliot Spitzer outlined his proposal to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and criticized President Bush’s plan to place stricter eligibility rules for the government health insurance program that covers poor children in a speech at Fordham University on Oct. 2.
Spitzer’s policy speech at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus came just a day after he announced that New York and six other states would file suit against the Bush administration’s plan to enforce the tighter eligibility rules for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Meanwhile, Spitzer’s plan to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, which he announced in September, has drawn strong opposition from Republicans.
Spitzer called on Republicans to set aside the politics of “fear-mongering” and engage in an honest debate about the value of both policy issues. He was particularly critical of efforts to link immigrants and terrorism.
“Let me close by making one point perfectly clear: No amount of hysterical rhetoric will prevent us from doing what is right,” Spitzer told the standing-room-audience of students and faculty members. “No amount of scare tactics that equate immigrants with terrorists will keep us from implementing changes to our driver’s license system that we know are needed to increase public safety and homeland security. And no amount of fear-mongering will keep us from fighting for health insurance for every child.”
Spitzer was introduced by Stephen Freedman. Ph.D., senior vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer, who welcomed the governor on behalf of Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham.
“We at Fordham welcome the opportunity to work with Governor Spitzer on a variety of programs that benefit the citizens of New York City and New York state,” Freedman said. “As a Jesuit institution, we know that our mission and our responsibilities recognize no borders. Our students and faculty come from across the nation and around the globe, but in particular Fordham contributes much to New York’s intellectual, economic and cultural life. The work we do has great benefit throughout New York City and New York state.”
President Bush vetoed a bill on Oct. 3 that would have expanded the SCHIP program, saying that it was too costly and would provide government coverage to those who can afford to pay for their own health insurance. Democrats vowed to overturn the veto, but an override vote in the House of Representatives on Oct. 18 failed to muster enough votes.
In his speech, Spitzer said that the Bush administration had “slammed the door” on New York’s poor children, and staunchly defended his plan to allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.
“Look at what we’re really talking about here,” Spitzer said. “We want to make our roads safer and bring more people into the system and they’re talking about terrorism. We want to insure more children and they’re talking about socialism. I’m not going to run from the fight just because the other side decides to demagogue it. Too much is at stake.”