- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — Politicians, immigrant groups and business leaders are offering their views on driver’s licenses for undocumented workers.

“Without a car or access to a car, you don’t work in the chicken industry on this peninsula,” Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., said at a hearing conducted Monday by a state task force studying the issue.

A Hungarian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen had a different view, several years after she was injured when an undocumented foreign worker in a stolen van struck her car.

“It was a drunken illegal immigrant,” said Eva Somori, a 77-year-old Ocean Pines resident. “This is awful. In our time, immigration was different.”

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s Task Force to Study Licensing Documentation met at Salisbury University. The panel is expected to make a recommendation to the governor in December.

“If you make licenses available to aliens … you’re making them conform to our standards on the roads,” Salisbury immigration lawyer Buxton Bailey told the panel, the Salisbury Daily Times reported.

“This is an issue that’s not going to go away,” said Delegate D. Page Elmore, Somerset and Wicomico counties Republican. He also said providing licenses to undocumented workers is an issue he would consider supporting if it comes up in the General Assembly’s 2005 session.

“I’d have to look at the legislation,” he said.

Representatives from Bienvenidos, a Hispanic outreach group at Salisbury University, said the immigrant population on the Eastern Shore has increased dramatically in the last 10 years.

Since 1990, the Hispanic population in the Eastern Shore’s eight counties increased by 136 percent, with Wicomico reporting a 200 percent increase.

Mr. Satterfield said chicken companies depend on the region’s immigrant population to fill jobs at processing facilities and that in some cases, foreign workers represent up to 40 percent of a chicken plant’s work force.

“Our industry depends on the immigrant population,” he said. “We’d be sunk without it.”

However, Mr. Satterfield said neither he nor the group have taken a position on issuing licenses to undocumented workers.

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