- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2008

It’s not difficult to see why Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has made Maryland a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, decided to announce last week that the state plans to comply with the REAL ID Act — the federal law requiring that states prevent illegals and terrorists from obtaining driver’s licenses. Mr. O’Malley’s popularity rating is lower than that of President Bush. According to a Fox 5/The Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports poll released earlier this month, Marylanders gave the president a 36 percent job-approval rating, slightly above the 33 percent they gave Mr. O’Malley. And even in blue-state Maryland, granting licenses to illegals and permitting them to drive is unpopular. Sixty-six percent of respondents support giving police the right to check the immigration status of drivers when they are pulled over for a traffic violation, while 76 percent said illegals should be barred from obtaining driver’s licenses.

That’s why the governor and his PR team have been tied up in knots trying to come up with something they could spin as complying with REAL ID. Currently, Maryland is one of eight states that provide licenses to illegals. Until last week Mr. O’Malley and his transportation secretary, John Porcari, were considering a plan to replace the current system with a two-tier scheme similar to the ill-fated proposal put forward last year by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, in which persons legally in the United States could get a license they can use to board airplanes or enter federal buildings, while illegals could get a lower-security license that they could use to drive but not to board airplanes or enter federal buildings. But the O’Malley administration changed its mind and announced Jan. 15 that it would drop the two-tier plan in favor of complying with the REAL ID Act. Now, the administration says, effective Jan. 1, 2010, it will begin requiring drivers to prove that they are in the country legally.

Since the announcement, we’ve been inundated with press releases, mostly from Republican lawmakers and party officials and others declaring victory. They believe that the heavy volume of telephone calls, e-mails, etc. to the governor and General Assembly forced Mr. O’Malley to do the right thing and act to restore the integrity of Maryland driver’s licenses. But, unfortunately, there is plenty of room for skepticism on this point. The governor’s plan to comply with REAL ID by New Year’s Day 2010 gives illegals and other undesirables two more years to obtain licenses; 23-and-a-half months is entirely too long to wait given the serious national security implications of this issue. Moreover, Mr. O’Malley knows full well that current political trends suggest that the Democrats have a good shot at retaking the White House and increasing their numbers in Congress — possibly setting the stage for an effort to repeal or significantly weaken the federal REAL ID law.

Consider this, too: Last year, the governor agreed to end his opposition to “Jessica’s Law,” which paved the way for mandatory sentences for sex offenders. But months after the measure was signed into law, we learned that the legislation contained a gaping loophole — a provision making sexual predators eligible for “good-time” credits and early release. Mr. O’Malley’s “new” position on REAL ID looks like more of the same and must be derailed.

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