- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Republican lawmakers in Virginia say they will back legislation at the upcoming General Assembly session that would require noncitizens who apply for driver's licenses to prove they are in the country legally.
The reaction followed a statement from Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, who said this week he would seek such legislation because seven of the 19 September 11 hijackers had illegally obtained driver's licenses issued in Virginia.
Legislation passed at the last General Assembly session requires those applying for a license to provide a photo ID and a birth certificate, as well as proof of where they live, such as a phone bill or other mail addressed to them.
But some lawmakers said that is not enough.
Sen. James "Jay" O'Brien, Fairfax Republican, supports linking license-expiration dates with non-immigrant visas to help identify illegal aliens.
"Every case of a terrorist involves some type of fraud having to do with their documents. Even in the snipers case, one was an American, but the juvenile got here on fraudulent papers," he said.
One way the state could close loopholes is by asking for documents proving the applicant had a right to be in this country, Mr. O'Brien said.
He introduced a bill during the last legislative session that would prevent illegal aliens from getting licenses. The bill passed the House but the Senate referred it to the Department of Motor Vehicles for study.
The Washington Times reported earlier this month that foreign nationals living in Virginia can renew their licenses without identification proving their legal U.S. residency.
It is estimated that 80 percent of the state's illegal aliens live in Northern Virginia.
Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, also said this week that he would seek legislation preventing illegal aliens from attending college at in-state tuition rates.
"I support it completely and I would consider sponsoring such a bill," Mr. O'Brien said. "I think it is inappropriate for a foreign national to qualify for in-state tuition."
Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican who will chair the criminal-law subcommittee through which such legislation would have to pass, said taxpayers paid thousands of dollars to subsidize illegal aliens at state universities.
At the University of Virginia, for example, in-state tuition was $8,000 for a year, while that for out-of-state students was $18,000, he said.
"Remember, we are talking about illegal aliens here. They have no right to be here in the first place or to be driving on our highways," he said.
Some lawmakers, however, expressed concern that creating such guidelines on licensing would effectively put control in the hands of federal agencies, such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which issued visas to the hijackers in the first place.
"Since immigration is a federal issue, [Mr. Kilgore] has to rely on the INS, which gave visas to the people who hijacked the planes on September 11. I am not quite sure why he wants to hand over our licensing process to federal agencies," said Sen. Leslie Byrne, Fairfax Democrat, who sponsored the legislation requiring those applying for license renewals to present a photo ID and proof of address.
The measure proposed by Mr. Kilgore "is going to create more lines [at the Department of Motor Vehicles], more delays, more problems, for people who are already there. It is going to be a more difficult process," she said.
Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Arlington Democrat, said she did not believe the DMV could make complicated decisions on immigration.
"I believe that the Department of Motor Vehicles should be in the business of licensing drivers to operate motor vehicles. I cannot believe that the employees of DMV are capable of making decisions on immigration," she said.
As for in-state tuition, she said this should not affect children who were brought here by their parents and who had attended and graduated from local schools.
Others, however, said the measures were sorely needed, post-September 11.
"These are essentially common-sense measures, and I would help [Mr. Kilgore] get them passed," said Sen. Emmet Hanger Jr., Staunton Republican.
In May, the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in the District, estimated Virginia's illegal-alien population at more than 100,000. The study said the state was one of the "new destination states" for undocumented immigrants, along with Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado.
Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Fairfax Republican, said he was a bit surprised that legislation had not passed yet asking aliens to show they were in the country legally.
"Virginia, and particularly Northern Virginia, has the unique perspective of having been part of the attacks. We don't want to clamp down on our whole society and citizens, but if the state and residents cooperate, it will make it harder for terrorists to hide here," he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide