- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003


   ANNAPOLIS (AP) — An advertisement airing statewide urges Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to veto a bill to study ways of making it easier for undocumented workers to obtain driver’s licenses.
   A father who lost his son in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center recorded the radio spot for a group called 9/11 Families for a Secure America. It was paid for by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington-based group.
   “He was 23 when terrorists struck the World Trade Center,” Peter Gadiel of Connecticut says in the ad. “I can’t bring Jamie back. But I can help prevent terrorists from striking again. Maryland lawmakers have sent a bill to Governor Ehrlich that lets illegal aliens acquire Maryland driver’s licenses.”
   Mr. Gadiel says if signed, the legislation “would be a priceless tool for terrorists” because they could get a license without a background, criminal or immigration check.
   “Don’t let Maryland’s license to drive become a license to kill,” the ad concludes.
   Hispanic activists say the ad is false and represents a new low for lobbying efforts designed to mislead the public.
   “These groups hate immigration and they are running ads like this here and in other states because as much as possible they want to manipulate the discussion around immigration,” said Kimberley A. Propeack, an attorney with the Maryland Latino Coalition for Justice.
   The governor has a May 27 deadline to sign or veto legislation that the General Assembly passed in the legislative session that ended last month.
   The only bill Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, has said he will veto is a $135 million revenue measure that would increase corporate filing fees, create a health maintenance organization premium tax and close so-called corporate tax loopholes. Mr. Ehrlich and his staff said the administration is reviewing the other bills.
   When introduced in the General Assembly, the license legislation sought to make it easier for immigrants to obtain a license by requiring the Motor Vehicle Administration to accept additional forms of identification.
   But lawmakers scaled back the bill, passing an 18-month study of the issue. The bill includes a provision requiring license applicants to supply the MVA with Social Security numbers. A new federal mandate requires states to collect the numbers as a way of tracking parents who evade paying child support.
   “The radio ads are false. It’s a study. It doesn’t put anything into law,” Miss Propeack said.
   Mr. Gadiel stands by the ad.
   “I can tell you our members find it incredible, just incredible that after 9/11 there are people around that really want to give terrorists driver’s licenses,” said Mr. Gadiel, head of 9/11 Families for a Secure America.
   Mr. Gadiel based his argument on a part of the bill that says applicants who do not have Social Security numbers must sign sworn statements to that effect. He charges that provision means illegal immigrants could obtain licenses by swearing they do not have Social Security numbers. (The MVA does not currently require applicants to supply those numbers.)
   “Without a Social Security number you are anonymous,” said Mr. Gadiel, who also serves on FAIR’s advisory board. “You could be John Doe or [September 11 hijacker] Mohamed Atta.”
   Gail Moran, the MVA’s legislative and regulatory manager, said if the bill becomes law, applicants without Social Security numbers would have to show other forms of identification and citizenship — such as birth certificates, work visas or passports.
   

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