- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

Despite legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year making it possible for Virginians to stop identity fraud, foreign nationals living in Virginia can renew their drivers' licenses without proving they are legal U.S. residents. "There is nothing in Virginia law that requires us [to ask] for that," Karen Rubey, director of driver services for the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), told The Washington Times earlier this month.
Seven of the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes and killed roughly 3,000 Americans on September 11 had Virginia identification cards, even though they were not residents of the Old Dominion. Given this troubling reality, Laurie Manel, a Canadian resident of Northern Virginia, was appalled when she went recently to a DMV branch to renew her husband's license and was not asked to present identification even though she had brought her permanent-residency card, a Social Security card and a card proving that she was the wife of a U.S. soldier.
Mrs. Manel was incredulous over the fact that nobody asked her if she were in the United States legally. "I was not the only one who was not asked," Mrs. Manel said. "There were many other non-American citizens who were there, and nobody asked anything. It really makes me mad."
Even worse, Mrs. Manel said, she got the brush-off when she complained to the DMV manager that she had not been asked to prove anything especially in the wake of September 11. "He was short with me. And all he said was, 'That's the way the commissioner of the DMV wants it,' " she told The Times.
Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation requiring that people prove who they are with a birth certificate and photo identification. To prove where they claim to reside, they must submit mail addressed to them, such as a phone bill. For newly elected state Sen. Jay O'Brien, Fairfax Republican, this doesn't go nearly far enough. While serving in the House of Delegates last year, Mr. O'Brien proposed legislation requiring that those who apply for license renewal provide documents showing that they legally reside in the United States. The legislation passed the House. But it was killed in the Senate, which deferred the bill for a year to permit it to be studied by the DMV a solution that doesn't appear terribly promising, given the negative reception Mrs. Manel received when she complained.
Mr. O'Brien plans to re-introduce his legislation next month. It has the support of Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and is expected to win the backing of most Republicans in the General Assembly. While Gov. Mark Warner has yet to take a position on Mr. O'Brien's proposal, Democratic back-benchers like Sens. Leslie Byrne and Mary Margaret Whipple have attacked it, complaining that, by requiring verification that an applicant for a Virginia driver's license is illegally in the country, the bill would require the DMV to help the Immigration and Naturalization Service do its job. But their alternative continuing the status quo by allowing people to obtain a license regardless of whether they have a right to be in the country is flatly unacceptable. It's time for Mr. Warner to show some leadership by publicly supporting Mr. O'Brien's commonsense reform proposal.

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