- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A bill that would bar illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses is gaining bipartisan support among Maryland lawmakers.

“I think this is a bill that cuts across party lines,” said Delegate Herbert H. McMillan, Anne Arundel County Republican who filed the bill last week. “I don’t think it even has to have a party stamp on it.”

The bill, which would require an applicant to be a Iegal U.S. resident to obtain a driver’s license, has gained support from at least three Democrats and 15 Republicans since Mr. McMillan told The Washington Times in October that he would submit the bill.

Majority Whip Emmett C. Burns Jr., Baltimore Democrat, said he opposes the bill because it “is just bad policy both economically and politically” and “opens the door for other bills for undocumented” aliens.

“I have been here all my life and it seems like they have more opportunities than me, and I’m documented,” said Mr. Burns, who is black.

Delegate Rosetta C. Parker, Prince George’s County Democrat, said she is supporting the bill because the threat of terrorists misusing state-issued identification is too high.

“I am not against people getting improvement, but I am against them getting it illegally,” she said. “With all the problems we are having now, we cannot be too careful.”

Delegate Kevin Kelly, Allegany County Democrat, said the idea of giving licenses to illegal immigrants is “nuts.”

“I think it positively absurd and dangerous to issue driver’s licenses to people who are in this country illegally,” said Mr. Kelly, another co-sponsor. “If you are illegal and in this nation, you should be promptly deported … If you are illegal, you should not be here to board airplanes and crash them into buildings.”

Some of the terrorists who hijacked and crashed a jetliner into the Pentagon on September 11 had obtained driver’s licenses and other identification in Virginia. The state since has barred illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses; the new law takes effect next month.

Meanwhile, California this month repealed a law that allowed illegal aliens to get driver’s licenses. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, made the repeal a campaign pledge in the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat who had signed the driver’s license law in September.

Mr. McMillan has proposed his bill to respond to a legal opinion by state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

In October, Mr. Curran instructed the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to issue driver’s licenses to immigrants even if they cannot “prove [their] lawful presence” in the United States. He also said the agency may use immigration documents to verify identity “when other satisfactory identification is unavailable.”

Anne S. Ferro, former MVA administrator, has said Mr. Curran’s opinion supports procedures already in place at the agency, which accepts passports, visas and other immigration documents if applicants have no U.S. birth certificates.

Mr. Curran’s written opinion follows efforts by Delegate Ana S. Gutierrez to give illegal aliens more access to driver’s licenses. Miss Gutierrez, Montgomery County Democrat, has been appointed to a task force to study the issue.

“Giving privileges to people who are breaking the law is an insult to those who abide by it,” said Delegate John R. Leopold, Anne Arundel County Republican and a co-sponsor of the McMillan bill. “One of the lessons of September 11 was the ease with which illegal immigrants can be a threat to our security by virtue of having access to driver’s licenses.”

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