Friday, January 23, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — A group of lawmakers is calling for illegal aliens to be incarcerated as soon as they are discovered, as one of six pieces of legislation aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

“A number of us decided that, instead of playing defense, it is time to play offense,” Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican, said of the illegal-immigration bills, which were introduced in the House before the start of the session last week.

The bills call for:

• Requiring local police, without warrants, to arrest illegal aliens they discover during their daily duties and turn them over to federal authorities.

• Banning illegal aliens from owning driver’s licenses.

• Seizing cars driven by illegal immigrants and suspending the licenses of anyone who allows illegal immigrants to drive their vehicles.

• Banning embassy-issued consular matricular identification cards from being accepted as forms of ID.

• Creating a task force to study whether health care workers should be required to report when they treat illegal aliens.

• Creating a task force to study how much illegal immigration costs the state.

A leading sponsor of the legislative package, Mr. McDonough said the bills have “no chance” of passage in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. But he added that he and Delegate Richard K. Impallaria, Baltimore County Republican, are representing their constituents with the legislation, which might pass in a few years.

“We can start the battle here,” Mr. McDonough said. “We will be back again next year and the year after and the year after.”

Mr. Impallaria, another key sponsor, said last year’s legislation that would have allowed illegal aliens to possess driver’s licenses and pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities served as a wake-up call.

The tuition bill was defeated, and the driver’s license bill is being studied.

“They both had the power to pass, which was a scary thought,” Mr. Impallaria said. “With 9/11, where you had people who entered the country illegally, and then you had the sniper [Lee Boyd Malvo], who was also illegal … if these weren’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what was.”

Malvo, a native of Jamaica, was convicted of taking part in 2002’s sniper shootings in the Washington area and sentenced to life in prison last month.

“The fact is the proponents on the other side are very organized, when polls show 85 to 90 percent of Americans are concerned about illegals, but frankly they are disorganized, so we are going to hold a series of rallies to generate grass-roots support,” Mr. McDonough said.

The first rally will be held Feb. 28 in Baltimore County.

The bills have received support from an assortment of about 15 Republicans, and the one calling for a ban on illegal immigrants possessing driver’s licenses has attracted two Democrats, as well — Delegates Emmett C. Burns Jr. of Baltimore County and Rosetta C. Parker of Prince George’s County.

Mr. Burns, the House deputy majority whip, said he supports stricter immigration laws.

“We have enough people here already without opening the floodgates,” he said. “We have aliens right here in America who are legal that can’t find jobs. … So why would we want to do more for people that are undocumented than for people that already here? I have a big problem with that.”

Delegate Herbert H. McMillan, Anne Arundel County Republican, said the state needs to tighten control of licenses because “driver’s licenses become the de facto national identification card.”

“It simply does not make since from a national security standpoint to give a person who is by definition an undocumented alien an identity document,” Mr. McMillan said. “And the other aspect of that is it is unfair to legal immigrants, people who have worked hard and played by our rules, to allow illegal immigrants to go to the head of the line.”

Delegate Steven J. DeBoy Sr., Baltimore County Democrat, said he is considering co-sponsoring the bill that would allow authorities to seize vehicles driven by illegal aliens.

The legislation is named after the late Baltimore County Police Sgt. Mark Parry, who was killed by an illegal Peruvian immigrant who crashed into his patrol car two years ago.

“We are trying to prevent this tragedy from happening to anybody else,” Mr. DeBoy said. “Public safety has to be paramount.”

It is not known how many illegal immigrants reside in Maryland. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, about 337,000 Maryland residents — or 6 percent of the state’s population — are not U.S. citizens.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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