- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2003

Virginia, tightening security after it was revealed that some of the September 11 terrorists obtained driver’s licenses in the state, will require proof of legal residence before issuing a license beginning Jan. 1.

Anne Atkins, director of public relations for the Department of Motor Vehicles, said a final list of approved documents establishing such proof would be announced by Dec. 1.

She added that the list would not include Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers or the Mexican Matricula Consular cards.

“When making the list to determine which documents we would accept, we wanted to make sure the documents used established legal presence,” Ms. Atkins said.

Neither the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) nor Matricula Consular card is proof of legal residence in the United States.

The ITIN is distributed by the Internal Revenue Service solely for tax-collection purposes, and the Mexican government distributes the Matricula Consular card.

The Washington Times reported yesterday that the IRS is overhauling the way the taxpayer numbers are distributed because illegal immigrants could be using them for fraudulent purposes, including obtaining driver’s licenses.

The IRS began distributing the ITIN in 1996 so foreign nationals could pay taxes on income from U.S. business interests.

They are similar to Social Security numbers, except they begin with the number 9. The only people eligible for ITINs are those who are ineligible for a Social Security number. More than 6 million ITINs have been assigned, but only 2 million have been used for the purpose of paying taxes, said the Center for Immigration Services.

“The IRS, unfortunately, hands [them] out like candy,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and leading advocate for stricter immigration laws.

“There are not 6 million foreign businesses here. So what’s the purpose of these numbers? They are being used for a lot of reasons, often for the purpose of obtaining benefits. … And they make life easier for those people looking for ways around the system.”

Six states now accept ITINs as valid ID for getting a driver’s license: Kansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Utah.

The IRS recently sent letters to the governors of all 50 states asking them to refuse such IDs because of concerns they were being used fraudulently.

Still, California lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday mandating their acceptance, and embattled Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, has pledged to sign it.

Virginia has tightened its controls on identification documents after it was revealed that some of the terrorists who crashed a jetliner into the Pentagon had obtained driver’s licenses and other forms of identification fraudulently.

Beginning Jan. 1, new applicants for a driver’s license must prove they are residing in the state legally.

The law applies only to new applicants, not those seeking to renew a license.

This summer, the DMV ran an extensive public-information campaign in which officials sought comments from both sides of the issue, and the agency will train employees in the coming months on how to recognize unacceptable documents.

Ms. Atkins said the training will have two parts.

The first is on what to look for on a document and what to do if one is suspected to be fraudulent.

The second part will be an “intellectual component” that will focus on sensitivity training and how to deal with people of different cultures.

Ms. Atkins hoped the final list of approved documents would be available “well before” the Dec. 1 deadline for notification.

State Sen. James “Jay” O’Brien, co-sponsor of the legislation, said he was pleased with the process that took place this summer.

“The governor appointed folks on all sides of the issue, who said the battle is over,” said Mr. O’Brien, Fairfax Republican.

“We are now going to have to proceed and see how we get things done. I was very pleased that they took a thorough look at how they can implement this law.”

The Matricula Consular card is acceptable ID for driver’s license applications in 13 states.

The card has been issued since 1870 and was created to identify Mexican citizens in need of consular assistance.

The card is also accepted as a valid form of ID by police departments and banks.

Mr. O’Brien said a top priority during the 2004 General Assembly session will be to pass legislation that would bar the consular cards from being accepted as identification when conducting state business.

He said one problem is cardholders may not have been given a background check.

“I am not targeting one particular country, and I intend to check with [Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore] for what would be the right way to go about this,” he said.

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