- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Supporters of extending driving privileges to the more than 50,000 illegal immigrants in Maryland have hit the driving public with a one-two punch: Attorney General Joseph Curran issued an advisory opinion, made public this week, declaring that “an applicant’s inability to prove lawful residence in the United States is not itself grounds for denial of a license.” Also, Mr. Curran maintains that the state Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) “may not deny a license to an individual because he or she is unable to prove lawful presence in this country.”

Delegate Ana S. Gutierrez, Montgomery County Democrat, who submitted the question to Mr. Curran, says that the attorney general’s response supports her view that the MVA’s current policy is wrongfully denying licenses to illegals who deserve them. Currently, the MVA requires applicants lacking a U.S. birth certificate to show proof of identification using a valid passport along with visa or other immigration documents. The MVA also considers such documents as school, utility and phone records, out-of-state and international driver’s licenses or a tax identification card.

However, this isn’t good enough for Miss Gutierrez, who complains that some illegal immigrants cannot get licenses, even if they have the aforementioned documents. She told The Washington Post that the Maryland Latino Coalition for Justice may file a class-action suit against the MVA.

For now, Miss Gutierrez seems to have been successful in achieving her interim goal. MVA administrator Anne S. Ferro was actually put in the bizarre position of publicly denying that she had any knowledge of illegal immigrants being turned away. But, it should be the MVA’s job to turn illegal aliens away when they attempt to obtain driver’s licenses in Maryland.

Ms. Ferro has good reason to be wary if legal action is taken: Mr. Curran — whose opinion Miss Gutierrez now cites as a possible basis for filing suit — will be responsible for defending the MVA.

This is wrong. Gov. Robert Ehrlich objects to providing driver’s licenses to people who are in the country illegally, and his reservations helped derail legislation pushed by Miss Gutierrez and much of the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly earlier this year. It would be useful if he stated his public support for legislation denying driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Several Republican lawmakers we spoke with said they plan to introduce such a measure. But, they and other supporters will need Mr. Ehrlich’s strong public support. Given the role that driver’s licenses play in our lives — which includes serving as identification so that people can board airplanes — it would be irresponsible to simply deposit the matter into the courts and hope for the best. Mr. Ehrlich and the General Assembly should ensure that Mr. Curran and Miss Gutierrez do not have the final word on this critical homeland security matter.

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