- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

A House bill that would have stopped illegal aliens from receiving Maryland driver’s licenses has resurfaced as an amendment to a transportation bill that could have a final vote as early as today.

“We are attempting to get this to the floor,” said Delegate Herb H. McMillan, Anne Arundel Republican. “We are moving around the committee system.”

Mr. McMillan’s bill to bar illegal immigrants from obtaining Maryland driver’s licenses was defeated last week in the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee.

“Obviously, I want [the amendment] to pass,” Mr. McMillan said. “But if it doesn’t, it serves the purpose of putting people on the record.”

Delegate Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George’s Democrat, said he was not surprised to see the proposal reappear in a commercial transportation bill.

“I thought that he would at least … let us know what was being contemplated,” Mr. Ramirez said. “But different people have different tactics.”

Another lawmaker was less understanding and questioned whether Mr. McMillan can re-introduce the bill in such a manner.

“He is just trying to get publicity,” said Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, Montgomery Democrat and a strong supporter of immigrants. “It is an invalid amendment.”

State Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe, however, said the bills can be linked.

“I think they are close enough in this case,” she said. “They are both vaguely security related.”

Mr. McMillan added his proposal to a commercial driver’s license bill that tightens standards on transporting hazardous chemicals on state roads.

Bills can be joined only if they are of the same subject matter, according to General Assembly rules.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Environmental Matters Committee, delayed the vote until today after she realized that Mr. McMillan’s amendment was part of the bill. She did not return a call seeking comment.

Though some Democrats have assailed the bill, House Deputy Majority Whip Emmett C. Burns Jr., of Baltimore County, said he supports tighter restrictions on immigrants.

“I didn’t think we should give licenses to illegals,” Mr. Burns said. “I think that driving privileges ought to be restricted to the individuals who meet all the qualifications.”

The measure is one of several proposed by delegates wanting to get tough on illegal immigration and among the last of the bills to survive.

Last month, legislators defeated bills by Republican Delegates Pat McDonough, of Baltimore County, and Rick Impallaria, of Harford County, including one that would have permitted the incarceration of illegal aliens as soon as they are identified.

Another bill that would have punished U.S. residents who allow illegal aliens to use their cars during the commission of a crime was defeated. And a third bill requesting a crackdown on embassies issuing identification cards to illegal aliens also was defeated.

Mr. McDonough and Mr. Impallaria have two bills pending that call for a study on the effect illegal aliens have on the state economy.

Mr. McMillan said he drafted the driver’s license bill in response to a legal opinion by State Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

In October, Mr. Curran stated in a letter to the state Motor Vehicle Administration that it must issue driver’s licenses to immigrants even if they cannot “prove [their] lawful presence” in the United States. He also said the agency may use immigration documents to verify identity “when other satisfactory identification is unavailable.”

Mr. Curran’s written opinion follows efforts by Miss Gutierrez to give illegal aliens more access to driver’s licenses. Miss Gutierrez has been appointed to a task force to study the issue after an effort to give licenses to illegal aliens failed last year.

Virginia passed a similar law, which took effect in January, after learning that some of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks had obtained driver’s licenses and other identification in the state.

California lawmakers repealed a law in December that allowed illegal aliens to get driver’s licenses. The state joined Alabama, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, which have restrictions on licenses to illegal aliens, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s Web site at www.fairus.org.

“It simply does not make sense from a national security standpoint to give a person who is by definition an undocumented alien an identity document,” Mr. McMillan has 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.”

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