- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Delegate Herb McMillan said yesterday that he will consider a compromise to his bill to keep illegal aliens from getting driver’s licenses, after failing for two straight years to get the legislation passed.

The Anne Arundel Republican’s legislation attempts to ban illegal aliens from getting the licenses that essentially have become all-access identification cards.

However, lawmakers yesterday proposed an amendment that would make his legislation similar to one passed two years ago in Tennessee, which grants illegal aliens certificates that allow them to drive but are not considered legal ID cards.

“I’m open to it,” Mr. McMillan said. “I’ll consider it. But right now, I like the bill the way it’s written.”

Mr. McMillan has failed to pass the legislation in the past two General Assembly sessions but thinks lawmakers might change their mind because states must comply with similar changes by 2008 under the recently passed federal Real ID Act.

“I’m not saying I would support [the amendment,] but it would be possible to have a driving certificate that meets the spirit of the Real ID Act,” he said at a hearing for the bill before the House Judiciary Committee. “I believe if we do [create a driving certificate for illegals] and other states don’t, it might have the consequence of drawing more illegal immigrants to the state.”

Committee members could vote on the bill as early as next week.

Mr. McMillan’s legislation requires the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to verify the legal status of applicants, to match license-expiration dates with visa-expiration dates for foreign applicants and to extend the license-expiration dates for immigrants in the process of renewing their visas.

Under the Real ID Act, only U.S.-born citizens and legal immigrants can obtain driver’s licenses. If a state does not comply, the driver’s licenses it issues may not be used for purposes such as entering government buildings or boarding airplanes.

Several immigrant advocacy groups, including CASA of Maryland Inc., testified that lawmakers should wait for federal guidance before making changes.

“If Maryland attempts to implement this system without waiting for the federal government, we’ll see repeated changes,” said Kim Propeack, a spokeswoman for CASA.

Group members also were reluctant to agree to the compromise, which was presented during Mr. McMillan’s testimony when being questioned by committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George’s Democrat; Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons, Montgomery Democrat; and Delegate Anthony G. Brown, Prince George’s Democrat.

They said it’s time lawmakers, who have grappled for years with the question of how to provide a safe way for Maryland’s estimated 100,000 illegals to obtain licenses to keep the roads safe, find a solution that will bring the state into compliance with federal law.

“We need to get off the stick here and fix the problem,” Mr. Brown said.

Forty states, including Virginia, require that driver’s license applicants prove they are in the United States legally. New Mexico is considering a similar model.

Miss Propeack also said Mr. McMillan’s bill would hurt U.S.-born Marylanders who do not have birth certificates or passports. She said it also would expand the black market for the required documents and make roads more unsafe because illegal aliens would not have access to insurance and driving classes.

Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, Montgomery Democrat, said she would oppose the bill and any amendments.

“This is really an anti-immigrant bill,” she said. “I really think it would be foolish to be spending money and changing systems when we do not know what the federal requirements are going to be.”

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