- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

Until now, Maryland Republicans have been almost entirely on the defensive when it came to issues having to do with illegal immigrants. That’s beginning to change, thanks to the efforts of Republican lawmakers led by Delegates Pat McDonough and Richard Impallaria. They have introduced a package of reform bills, including legislation that would ban illegals from having driver’s licenses; require that they be incarcerated as soon as they are discovered; punish U.S. residents who permit illegals to use their cars during commission of a crime; and crack down on embassies who issue identification cards such as Mexico’s matricula consular to illegal immigrants.

It’s about time that Maryland Republicans take a strong stance against those who flout U.S. immigration law, and reach out to Democrats who have tired of the way their political leadership has sought to exploit the issue for political gain.

Within weeks of Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s inauguration last year, Maryland Democrats began a campaign to revive their sagging political fortunes by playing the illegal immigration card in an effort to woo Hispanic voters. Powerful Democratic politicians such as Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey and House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario demanded that the state permit illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. In the General Assembly, the Democratic leadership tried to ram through legislation granting them driver’s licenses and lower in-state college tuition. (In the end, Mr. Ehrlich rightly vetoed the in-state tuition bill, while the driver’s license issue was turned over to a study commission).

And two of Mr. Ehrlich’s most likely challengers in 2006 — Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan — denounced the Clear Law Enforcement for Alien Removal Act (CLEAR), introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican. That legislation, which has 112 House co-sponsors, would give state and local police agencies the authority to enforce federal immigration laws and would grant them access to the National Crime Information Center database for immigration status information.

A number of recent events have served as wake-up calls for Marylanders about the threats posed by this class of lawbreakers and the irresponsibility of the politicians who function as their enablers. One is the case of sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, an illegal immigrant. Another is the case of Baltimore County Police Sgt. Mark Parry, who died in 2002 after an illegal Peruvian immigrant crashed into his patrol car. Nor can these be sloughed off as isolated cases. According to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, there are 80,000 illegal criminal aliens — among them convicted murderers, rapists and child molesters who served jail time and were released — who have disappeared and are apparently loose on the streets of America today.

Unfortunately, some Hispanic Republicans, including the Hispanic Republicans of Maryland, the official outreach arm for the state GOP, have criticized the legislative package. Republican Party Chairman John Kane has sought to distance the party from the delegates’ initiative and said yesterday through a spokeswoman that the Republican Party does not support their proposals. We urge Mr. Ehrlich — who has yet to take a definitive position — to embrace the responsible approach to immigration reform taken by the Republican lawmakers.

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