November 15th, 2007
09:04 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama and driver's licenses

Sen. Obama called the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants a "wedge issue."

(CNN) –Responding to a question at the Democratic debate from CNN's Campbell Brown regarding his past support of benefits for illegal immigrants, including drivers licenses and in-state college tuition, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said "the problem we have here is not driver's licenses. Undocumented workers do not come here to drive." "They don't go - they're not coming here to go to the In-N-Out Burger," he added. "That's not the reason they're here. They're here to work. And so instead of being distracting by what has now become a wedge issue, let's focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration, had done nothing about it."

But when pressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer whether he supports a policy allowing drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, Obama said "I am not proposing that that's what we do."

Blitzer then asked the other candidates on stage whether they supported a policy that would allow drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York all said they did not.

When it was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's turn to answer he said he did support the idea. "Well, my answer is yes, and I did it," Richardson said. "You know why? Because the Congress, and I notice Barack mentioned the president, but the Congress also failed miserably to pass comprehensive immigration."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said he disagreed with the way Blitzer phrased the question. "I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings," he said. "You give people a path to legalization and you work to make sure that you don't criminalize their status any further."

Related video: Drivers licenses for illegals

- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. This Hawkeye's for Obama

    CNN: all I have to say is that your shameless spin and bias may fool a handful of idiots, but you will never be able to fool an Iowans!

    November 16, 2007 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  2. Max, Boston, MA

    Anyone who bases their vote on "waffling", "flip flopping", or any similar political tagline should really just remove themselves from the voting populace. Such characterizations feed off of gaining votes from the short-sighted.

    There is a reason that the two leading candidates have struggled with this question so far - the issue is more complicated than a simple "Yes or no" answer. I'm certain that none of the candidates onstage were in favor of illegal immigration, but the driver's licensing does go into the realm of public safety (which we are told we're under constant attack of, anyway).

    It's not that I believe illegal immigrants should be granted driver's licenses (personally, I don't). But I can understand why I candidate would support the idea, and I can understand why they don't want to be cornered into a sound-byte that will inevitably become misconstrued in the future.

    November 16, 2007 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  3. Walters, A

    I'M TIRED OF CNN AND THEIR BIAS AGAINST SENATOR OBAMA, YOU GUYS WILL PUSH HILLARY TO THE WHITE HOUSE AND HAVE A REPITITION OF THE BUSH FIASCO, SHE HAD ANWSERED YES TO THIS SAME QUESTION, AND FLIP FLOPPED AS USUAL SAID NO WHEN POPULAR OPINION AND HER FRIEND GOV SPITZER CHANGE HIS OWN MIND.
    SHE WAS UNABLE TO GIVE ANY PROPOSED SOLUTION TO SOCIAL SECURITY, TRYING DISINGIENIOUSLY DISTORT OBAMA'S RESPONSE BUT OBAMA CAME BACK RIGHT AT HER. ALL CNN PANEL MEMBERS ARE SO HYPOCRITICAL AND THEY DON"T SERVE THE INTEREST OF THE NATION, THAT IS WHY CHRIS MATHEWS AND TIM RUSSERT ARE THE BEST WHEN IT COMES TO THIS BUSINESS,
    OBAMA 2008, CNN YOU WILL NOT STOP THE GRASS ROOT MOVEMENT.

    November 16, 2007 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  4. dmw, roeland park, ks

    In the last debate, Hillary attempted to give a reasoned response to whether driver's liscenes should be given to illegals. Obama and Edwards have been telling us for two weeks that Hillary is indecisive, she can not give a yes or no answer.

    Obama did the same thing last night; but he was worst because he all over the place with a response, and then said yes, but...So why was it alright for everyone to call Hillary out, but, you are now are saying that for Obama it was not about the answer but about the premise.

    This tells me that alot of you all are hypocrits. It is unfair to berate Hillary and praise Obama when they said the same thing, but Hillary was more in command of herself and her words. She is clearly the most qualified candidate.

    November 16, 2007 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  5. Megha, San Antonio, TX

    Mr Obama, seriously?
    And all Obama supporters have suddenly now changed and are saying there is no yes or no answer in a one minute time frame. When Hillary and Bill Clinton said the same thing, these same Obama supporters rediculed them. Seriouly guys, give everyone a fair chance. We, as voters, need to stop flip-flopping.

    November 16, 2007 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  6. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    A license does not equate with insurance, some of you are confusing the two or puting them together as one. Seperate issues, you can get a license WITHOUT insurance.

    Wolf would not let Obama answer and that gave the appearance that he was stumbling, he AGAIN said YES and it didn't take two weeks and the Governor of NY (who was worried he was going to get "Fostered") to help make his decison.

    November 16, 2007 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  7. Steve in SC

    Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said he disagreed with the way Blitzer phrased the question. "I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings," he said. "You give people a path to legalization and you work to make sure that you don't criminalize their status any further.

    Dude, if they need a pathway to legalization, they would make them ILLEGAL! Those who are legal need no such pathway. More polispeak! As far as Obama goes, that license answer make him look silly!

    November 16, 2007 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  8. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Obama answered correctly, the problem is not drivers license and Obama isn't the one who proposed drivers license to illegal immigrants. Because he didn't propose drivers license, wisely he spoke about where the real problem stems. One can answer yes or no, but does it fix the real problem?

    November 16, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. xtina - chicago IL

    I was working during the big debate, but did any of these candidates say it doesn't have to be all or nothing with illegal immigrants. . . did any of them suggest a compromise? I just want the first step to be payroll taxes collected from these millions of people so that the taxes of us regular Americans dont' keep creeping up. We need to get on track with this tax situation because most of Chicago, for example, just got hit with 40 per cent property tax hike and then a few days later lots of individual city taxes. This is ridiculous how the politicians are nickel and dimeing us to death.

    November 16, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  10. Moses, Mountain View, CA

    THE SAD THING FOR 'CLINTONIANS' IS THAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR FAULTS TO EQUATE OBAMA TO THEIR MADAM...This is not that fault people. As written by many of the Obama posters, the question is complicated and so does not have a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer and that's how Obama has approached it...THIS GUY IS SMART!
    Quit being silly, Clinton people...look for a better fault which I don't think you'll find EVER!

    November 16, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  11. Darko, New Orleans LA

    The plan is stupid. Why...WHY would an illegal immigrant want a license? Why would they go through the trouble of putting thier name into the 'system'? Why would they go get insurance, let alone pay for it?

    And does having a license make them any better of a driver. Hardly.

    A plan that just won't work in reality. Typical dem law...

    November 16, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. El, Ottawa, Ontario

    On the driver license issues for illegals, Obama mumbled and fumbled. He answered a simple yes/no question with a canned elaborate but confusing answer.

    With about 7 weeks to go for the caucuses and primaries, Obama will pay dearly in polls for his mumbling and fumbling.

    In term of polls, Obama peaked before the debate and will go down from here. Hillary scored big in getting free publicity in this CNN debate. Just watch her polls rise in days to come.

    November 17, 2007 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. Tuscaloosa, Alabama

    Do you ever notice how much the Republican candidates for President talk about terrorism, immigration, prayer in school, abortion, Terry Schiavo ?? All imp. issues to some for sure, but for most divisive or wedge issues, which is just exactly what the GOP wants !! Keep them focused on issues which don't really do anything for the individual but which do not require candidates to actually anything which would improve people's lives !!!

    The day that Republican candidates begin to talk about the cost of gas, the cost of home heating oil, making affordable mortgages available for the masses, creating good domestic jobs which are not off-shorable, rebuilding the American infrastructure, the real cost of inflation as opposed to the cooked numbers we are provided by this Administration, etc., is the day that I might vote Republican again, but that day appears to be a snowballs chance in Hell of actually occurring anytime soon.

    November 18, 2007 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  14. Ekundayo,O.Columbus.Ohio

    Senator Obama is easily ruffled under pressure and tonight's arm twisting tactics of CNN's Wolf Blitzer is a pointer,Senator Obama can and has what it takes to lead the pack to WH.If He can work on his body language and consistently rise up to the plate and prove above all sentiments that He's resolute fighter with conviction and courage to take on challenges squarely Americans voters knows the stakes are higher now more than ever for a change with upfront assurances and no excuses for free rides to WH.

    November 18, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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