- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2003

RICHMOND — Officials with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles are asking people what legal documents first-time applicants should show clerks to obtain a driver’s license.

“Right now, this is an ever-evolving list and we want you to help us identify what documents we should be looking for [because] we don’t work for immigration,” the DMV’s outreach coordinator, Maxine Carter, told about a dozen people attending a public forum this week.

Ms. Carter’s comments come as DMV officials try to figure out how to implement a law that will require all first-time applicants for driver’s licenses or Virginia identification cards to show legal residence in Virginia. The law also applies to those seeking to reinstate a revoked license but not to those applying for a renewal. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Legal presence can be determined by a U.S. birth certificate or passport. Noncitizens can show a resident alien card or an employment authorization card. They also can show a valid foreign passport with a visa or I-94 or I-94W cards, which record arrival and departure dates. All the documents must be originals.

Ms. Carter will travel across the state through the end of August to get ideas from the public on what documents should be included.

The DMV has convened a 10-member panel that has met twice to discuss ways to implement the law. It includes elected officials, immigrant-rights advocates and transportation officials.

The next meeting in the northern part of Virginia will be Monday in Winchester. The recommendations from these forums will be forwarded to the DMV panel.

“Basically, [is] this law to make sure no illegal aliens come in here and blow things up again?” asked Rebecca Cox, 20, of Richmond, who is concerned that native-born citizens such as herself will be in a Catch-22 under the law.

“I don’t know many 20-year-olds that carry their birth certificates around in their pockets, and my mother is not going to give it to me. The [Bureau of] Vital Records is not going to give me something without identification, so where does that leave me?” Miss Cox asked.

Marilyn Breslow, director of refugee and immigration services for the Archdiocese of Richmond, said she asked the DMV to have an outside agency help monitor documents because sometimes documents may “look sloppy but are still legal.”

“The I-94 card is a perfect example of this. You get this 3-by-5 card when you come in and keep it with you, and it can get ratty and torn, but you are still legal. Someone not familiar with this won’t know it,” said Mrs. Breslow, whose organization lobbied against the bill before lawmakers approved it earlier this year.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, signed the legislation in April after making it clear he wanted the measure to be implemented fairly.

The law is a result of extensive lobbying by antiterrorism groups that formed after the September 11 attacks to impose stricter rules on those applying for Virginia licenses and identification cards.

Several of the September 11 hijackers used fraudulently obtained Virginia identification cards to board the planes that were crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Earlier this month, federal authorities arrested two clerks at the Tysons Corner DMV branch and four associates in a suspected $1 million scheme to produce and sell authentic Virginia driver’s licenses to unqualified applicants during the past five years. There is no evidence that the scheme was terrorism-related, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said.

“We were embarrassed once with the World Trade Center and were embarrassed again with Tysons Corner. What in this law is going to ensure this sort of thing does not happen again?” asked a 73-year-old Richmond resident who identified himself only as Eugene.

DMV Commissioner D.B. Smit, who is chairman of the 10-person panel, said the circumstances in the Tysons Corner case were not spelled out in the news accounts.

The agency is doing everything it can to ensure that documents issued by the DMV will be legal and go only to eligible people, he said.


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