- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

Foreign nationals living in Virginia can renew their driver licenses without identification proving their legal U.S. residency, despite legislation passed earlier this year to stop identity fraud, which helped terrorists execute the September 11 attacks.
"There is nothing in Virginia law that requires us to [ask for] that," said Karen Rubey, director of driver services for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Seven of the 19 hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field had Virginia identification cards but were not residents of the state.
Laurie Manel, a Canadian citizen who lives in Northern Virginia, recently went to the DMV's Manassas branch to renew her husband's license and was not asked to show identification, though she had her Social Security card, her permanent-residency card and a card showing that she was the wife of a U.S. soldier.
"I was so upset about this," she said. "I went and talked to the manager and wanted to know why I had not been asked to prove anything, especially since September 11. He was short with me. And all he said was, 'That's the way the commissioner of the DMV wants it.'"
Mrs. Manel also said that nobody asked whether she was allowed to be in the United States legally.
"I was not the only one who was not asked," she said. "There were many other non-American citizens who were there, and nobody asked anything. It really makes me mad."
However, her daughter, who also is a Canadian citizen and who was applying for her first Virginia driver's license, was asked for documentation.
State Sen. James "Jay" O'Brien, Fairfax Republican, introduced legislation while in the House of Delegates last session requiring those applying for license renewals to show documents proving that they are allowed to be in the country. The legislation was deferred for a year to permit review. He plans to reintroduce the legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes next month.
"I think everyone at the time of renewal should be asked not only if you live here, but 'are you allowed to be here?'" he said. "The terrorists and even one of the snipers, they were all foreign nationalists using false identification to do harm to Americans. We cannot let that continue."
The legislation that passed during the General Assembly earlier this year requires only that people prove their identity with a photo ID and a birth certificate. They also must give proof of where they live by submitting a phone bill or other mail addressed to them at the place where they say they reside.
State Sen. Leslie Byrne, who sponsored the legislation, said that it is not the state's duty to enforce immigration.
Mrs. Byrne, Fairfax Democrat, opposes the proposed legal-residency clause because it would make the DMV more bureaucratic and would involve the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the federal agency that deals with most immigration issues.
"My concern is that we would be relying on the most dysfunctional agency in all of government the INS to give out licenses," she said. "You think you have a mess now at the DMV? It would be 10 times worse."
Philip Vasquez, DMV deputy commissioner, said that findings are due later this month on a DMV study on the effectiveness of applicants submitting documents to prove they can legally reside in the United States.
He said, however, that the new requirement might not solve everything.
"Whether they are allowed to be here, or whether they are terrorists are two different things," Mr. Vasquez said. "Remember, at some point the hijackers were legally [allowed] to be here."
The study, conducted over several months from statewide public hearings, also will include findings about the use of biometric measurement, including fingerprints or retinal scans, for identification purposes.
Ellen Qualls, spokeswoman for Gov. Mark R. Warner, said that the governor would not comment until the report is released.

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