- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 7, 2005

Seven of the 19 September 11 hijackers got driver’s licenses in Virginia, which has since tightened its rules and barred illegal aliens from getting licenses. But next door in Maryland, illegals can still get driver’s licenses, and open-borders ideologues are determined to make sure that the ones who can’t get them in Virginia won’t run into trouble in places like Baltimore and Gaithersburg.

Last week, CASA of Maryland Inc., a Takoma Park advocacy group, assailed the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration for asking for Social Security numbers before issuing driver’s licenses. CASA has been protesting outside MVA offices, accusing the agency of having the temerity to check applicants’ immigration status. Would that it were so.

Maryland law on the issuance of driver’s licenses is governed largely by a 2003 advisory opinion by Attorney General Joseph Curran, who wrote that the MVA “may not deny a license to an individual because he or she is unable to prove lawful presence in this country.”

By law, the MVA must have proof of identity and age and evidence of Maryland residence before issuing a driver’s license. Verifying identity requires a Social Security number, a green card or an out-of-state, out-of-country or foreign driver’s license. Alternatively, two “secondary” sources such as a Selective Service card or utility bill can suffice. So, illegals can get licenses if they can provide documentation other than a Social Security number.

Somehow CASA of Maryland has transformed this into a campaign to find illegals and deny them licenses. We only wish that were the case.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan finds himself in the bizarre position of insisting the MVA is giving illegals the same treatment as everyone else. “No one is targeted,” he told S.A. Miller of The Washington Times last week. “We have evaluated the law very carefully, and we have a duty to make sure when someone applies for a driver’s license that their identity is ascertained correctly.”

In Maryland, officials like Mr. Flanagan are under intense pressure to grant licenses to illegal aliens. Some state lawmakers have repeatedly brought up legislation to rectify this by barring licenses for illegals, but these bills are typically buried by the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly. The Maryland Democratic Party, which holds 131 of the 188 seats in the General Assembly today, is squarely on the side of CASA and other groups who want to make it as easy as possible for illegal immigrants to come to the state and live there without having to worry about inconveniences like federal immigration law. And they are succeeding: A report issued in March by the Pew Hispanic Center found that the number of illegals in Maryland has increased from 100,000 five years ago to nearly a quarter of a million last year. The illegal-alien-friendly environment encouraged by the General Assembly and the dominant left wing of the state Democratic Party has undoubtedly been a contributing factor.

The one positive political development on this issue in recent years is that Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a moderately conservative Republican, does not like the idea of providing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. As he gears up for his re-election campaign next year, Mr. Ehrlich (who has used his veto to prevent illegals from obtaining in-state tuition) would do well to consider reminding Marylanders of his differences with the Democrats on this critical homeland-security issue.

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