- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004

The Department of Homeland Security today is expected to deliver a letter to members of the Maryland House of Delegates explaining its position on legislation barring illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses. The opinion was requested by Delegate Herbert McMillan, Anne Arundel Republican, who is waging an uphill battle to get the legislature to clarify that Maryland law does not require that illegal immigrants be granted driver’s licenses.

Last spring, General Assembly Democrats led by the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Delegate Joseph Vallario, tried unsuccessfully to enact legislation granting licenses to illegals. In the end, the legislature and Gov. Robert Ehrlich agreed to a compromise plan that set up a commission to study the issue.

Then, last fall, Attorney General Joseph Curran weighed in with an advisory opinion declaring 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.” This put then-MVA administrator Anne S. Ferro in the bizarre position of publicly denying that her agency was turning away illegal immigrants. This is wrong. It should be the MVA’s job to prevent individuals illegally in this country from getting licenses — which allow people to do everything from cashing a check to boarding an airplane. In an effort to clarify the law, Mr. McMillan has introduced a bill that would make clear that you have to legally reside in the United States in order to obtain a license in Maryland.

Currently, more than 20 states have laws expressly prohibiting illegal immigrants from obtaining licenses. These include Virginia, whose lax security procedures enabled seven of the 19 September 11 hijackers to obtain IDs in the state. Following those attacks, the Old Dominion barred illegals from getting licenses. Unfortunately, if the Curran ruling is not overturned, it means that Maryland could drift in the opposite direction — weakening its standard. With Virginia cracking down, it means that the next group of terrorists looking to procure bogus IDs will be more likely to visit the MVA in Gaithersburg or Baltimore.

We urge Mr. McMillan — and other sober-minded Republicans and Democrats in Annapolis — not to give up the fight for legislation making clear that Maryland will not grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

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