Paterson, Serrano, and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

So when David Paterson officially comes into office on Monday, what will happen to some of the initiatives that stalled under Eliot Spitzer?

For example, State Senator Jose Serrano led an effort, during the drivers’ license controversy, to get Spitzer to enact a statewide “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for immigration status that would allow residents to access services, and interact with state officials, without having to fear being reported to authorities if they weren’t here legally.

The policy has long been in place in New York City by executive order.

Serrano indicated that the incoming governor has taken pro-immigrant positions on many issues, but said he won’t ask Paterson to enact “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by executive order.

“I think the chances for that bill lie less with Albany and more with what happens in the presidential race. We have a bunch of candidates, even the Republican candidates that are not as anti-immigrant as we’ve seen in the past,” Serrano told me just now. “So, I think it will take a bit of a seismic shift in public perception, and that shift will happen after the presidential elections.”

He added, “On the state level, I think a little bit more needs to be done to inform the residents why this is a good thing, why this makes us safer.” He added, “I’m looking to legislate something the mayor has done by executive order. Executive orders are not law, so I would prefer this be law, so it sets legal precedent going forward.”

And, of course, Serrano added, “While I understand this is a really important issue, we have to get a state budget passed.”

Paterson, Serrano, and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’