- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Maryland legislative committee is aiming to kill a proposal that would make it difficult for illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses, saying its regulations for toughening documentation standards are discriminatory.

The state Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) in July filed a plan that would not allow license applicants to use documents such as foreign school and baptismal records to prove their identity.

The plan was proposed after an internal study revealed a 233 percent increase from 2003 to 2005 in the number of false claims of residency or attempts to obtain new identities when applying for licenses.

MVA officials said the increase was “more significant” at branches that serve foreign-born people.

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, chairman of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR), said several lawmakers on the 20-member panel had called the new regulations “discriminatory or downright offensive.”

Mr. Pinsky, Prince George’s County Democrat, said a committee vote on the plan has been put off until after the Nov. 7 general elections.

He will hold a hearing late this fall to allow the MVA and opponents of the plan to defend their positions, he said.

“A number of members of the committee have raised concerns that [the plan] tightens up, and almost narrows considerably, the criteria for applying and receiving licenses, and it may have major [ramifications] for immigrants new to this country,” Mr. Pinsky said. “There’s been a practice for what kind of documents can be used, and they’re trying essentially to narrow that. It’s unclear for what reasons.”

Maryland does not require license applicants to be in the country legally, and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly has rejected several bills that would make it harder for illegal aliens to obtain licenses.

Virginia toughened its documentation standards for driver’s licenses after it was revealed that many of the September 11 hijackers had obtained Virginia licenses and fake IDs.

Meanwhile, the MVA faces a lawsuit by two immigrant-advocacy groups who say the agency’s routine rejection of proper documentation makes it more difficult for foreign-born people to get licenses.

Eliza Leighton, a lawyer with CASA of Maryland, one of the groups in the lawsuit, said the proposed regulations would make it “almost impossible” for foreign-born people to get licenses.

MVA Administrator John T. Kuo denied that the regulations target immigrants and said the proposal is “strictly a response” to the increase in license fraud.

The MVA is “targeting those areas where we have no way to identify those documents that are coming in by deleting them,” Mr. Kuo said. “It has nothing to do with any particular applicant. It will apply to all applicants, and it is designed to maintain and reinforce our document-review process in order to maintain the integrity of Maryland driver’s licenses and identification cards.”

Delegate Jean Cryor, Montgomery County Republican and AELR committee member, said she supports a hearing “because there’s too much dissatisfaction, and there’s too much fear that a Maryland driver’s license could be used elsewhere to prove” U.S. citizenship.

“Obviously, we have a problem, and we’re going to have to solve it,” she said.

State Sen. Richard F. Colburn, a Republican who represents the Eastern Shore, said that he had not reviewed the proposal, but added that a hearing is not needed because the answer is simple.

“I’ve had a lot of complaints about illegal aliens getting driver’s licenses, and these regulations are drafted to combat that,” he said. “Why would you validate an illegal status with a legal driver’s license? Did we learn anything from September 11?”

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