- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

RICHMOND State Sen. James "Jay" O'Brien vowed to continue fighting against illegal immigrants obtaining Virginia driver's licenses, despite a key Senate committee's decision yesterday to refer the legislation to another panel.
"I am going to see this thing through," said Mr. O'Brien, a Fairfax County Republican who sponsored the bill. "I have worked too long and too hard to see them drop the ball."
Instead of making a decision, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 12 to 3 to send the bill to the Senate Finance Committee for an economic-impact study.
Mr. O'Brien got support from about 30 persons wearing red buttons on their jackets that read "No More 9/11."
"The murder of 3,000 innocent people shows that you must act to change the law," said Peter Gadiel, whose son, Jamie, was killed in the World Trade Center attack. Mr. Gadiel testified on behalf of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America Foundation.
Political observers think the vote will kill the legislation because Virginia faces a $2.1 billion deficit and passage will add costs to the budget.
The bill would help prevent Virginia licenses from being issued to illegal immigrants like several of the September 11 hijackers.
The legislation would require aliens to show such proof as a visa or permanent-residency card before getting or renewing a license, which would expire the same time as the visa.
A visitor in the United States indefinitely would have to get the license renewed annually.
"It would be a big help to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies if we could guarantee that a license or ID card issued by Virginia was legitimate and only for the time [the person] was legitimately in this country," said Thomas Drumm, a retired FBI agent with nine years of anti-terrorism experience agreed.
Critics have problems with the bill because the documents to get a license would come from the troubled U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"As well intentioned as this bill is, it is a flawed bill," said Tim Freilich, a lawyer with the Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Migrant Workers in Falls Church. "To prevent another 9/11, our nation's immigration system must be fixed by our nation's leaders in Congress and not by the individual teller windows of inadequately trained Department of Motor Vehicles agents."
Sen. William C. Mims, a Loudoun County Republican, fired back at critics who said illegal immigrants in Virginia with no terrorist inclinations would be unfairly targeted.
"Tell my why the privilege of driving on our highways should be extended to those who have not obeyed the laws by being here," he said.

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