- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 7, 2006

Even in blue states like Maryland, many politicians are wary of being depicted as supporters of illegal aliens. But prominent Democrats, including Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and some members of General Assembly, have joined with CASA the state’s leading advocacy group in support of illegal aliens. The move is counter to Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s effort to crack down on the proliferation of driver’s license fraud. If left unchallenged, the current situation would level serious consequences on the validity of every licensed driver in Maryland and would threaten our national security.

CASA of Maryland, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and other open-borders groups have filed suit against the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), charging that it discriminates against immigrants and illegal aliens by routinely rejecting proper documentation required to obtain drivers licenses in the state.

Attorneys representing the immigrants and aliens refuse to reveal the legal status of their clients because state law does not require that applicants for Maryland licenses be living in the United States legally, citing a 2003 legal opinion from Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (who, coincidentally, is Mr. O’Malley’s father-in-law). The lawsuit is strenuously opposed by 9/11 Families for a Secure America, an organization which lobbies to strengthen security requirements to deny licenses to potential terrorists.

The lawsuit should be of particular concern to Congress and federal officials: If CASA and MALDEF prevail in court, it would virtually guarantee that Maryland would be unable to comply with provisions in the federal Real ID Act, which requires that all states verify the legal status of license applicants by 2008. If Maryland cannot comply, then its drivers licenses cannot be used for purposes such as boarding airplanes or entering federal buildings.

Virginia toughened its application requirements for obtaining licenses after it was learned that several of the September 11 hijackers obtained licenses there. But thanks to the efforts of CASA and Maryland’s Democratic state lawmakers, Maryland has been going in the opposite direction. Mr. Ehrlich, who previously opted for a conciliatory approach, has apparently concluded that the Democrats are more interested in currying favor with the illegal-alien lobby than ensuring the integrity of the state’s drivers licenses. The governor has challenged the General Assembly to do the right thing, and his initiative deserves strong support.

Mr. Ehrlich recently sent a letter to Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat who chairs a legislative committee that reviews state regulations, urging him to hold a hearing on the problem of fraudulently obtained licenses. Keyonna Summers of The Washington Times recently reported that, according to the Maryland MVA, there had been a 233 percent increase in license fraud between 2003 and last year. The agency said that part of the problem was due to immigrants and illegal aliens presenting fraudulent documents at branch offices. Mr. Ehrlich has urged Mr. Pinsky’s panel to eliminate some of the most unreliable, fraud-prone documents offered by persons seeking a drivers license, including foreign baptismal certificates and foreign school records. Another reminder of the seriousness of the problem came last month, when five people were indicted on federal charges in connection with a group that allegedly sold 150 fraudulent licenses.

The governor wants quick action on what he rightly terms commonsense changes in state law. But his efforts to fix the problem were met with disdain from Democrats, including Mr. Pinsky and Montgomery County Delegate Richard Madaleno, as well a spokesman for Mr. O’Malley’s gubernatorial campaign. Perhaps the silliest response came from Mr. Pinsky, who suggested in an interview with The Washington Post that the governor was trying to “bully” legislators into changing the law, and that it would be impractical to expect the 20 members of his committee to interrupt their re-election campaigns to deal with the problem of fraudulently obtained driver’s licenses — in wartime, no less.

Mr. Pinsky’s reasoning is absurd. We commend the governor for raising the issue, and encourage him to drive home the gravity of the problem in the coming weeks.

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