- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Question: What is the only state east of the Rockies that permits illegal aliens to drive? If you said “progressive” Maryland, congratulations.

Only three other states (Washington, Hawaii and New Mexico) do not require applicants to prove that they are lawfully present in the United States in order to get a license. But Maryland’s status as a mecca for illegals to obtain driver’s licenses is causing huge problems, so much so that Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to propose legislation that would require driver’s license applicants to prove that they are “lawfully present” in the country.

One year ago, Mr. O’Malley’s transportation secretary, John Porcari, proposed replacing Maryland’s policy of granting licenses to illegals with a two-tier system similar to one proposed in 2007 by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, in which persons legally in the United States could obtain a license they could use as validation to board an airplane or enter federal buildings, while those in the country illegally would obtain second-tier licenses which could be used to obtain auto insurance (we did not make this up). But just as Mr. Spitzer was forced to withdraw his proposal after New York voters made known their disapproval, Mr. O’Malley killed the Porcari proposal in favor of complying with the federal Real ID Act. But he delayed implementation until Jan. 1, 2010 giving illegal aliens what was at time another 23 months to obtain driver’s licenses in Maryland.

Now the O’Malley administration appears, thankfully, to be having second thoughts about the consequences of issuing driver’s licenses to illegals. In recent testimony before the General Assembly, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator John Kuo said Maryland has become a “pass through” for illegals seeking driver’s licenses, adding that an increasing percentage of applicants are found to be fraudulently trying to obtain a license. Between 35 to 50 percent of out-of-country applicants are rejected when they apply for driver’s licenses because they can’t prove they are Maryland residents or lack proper documentation, Mr. Kuo said.

Last year, his agency received more than 300,000 out-of-state and - incredibly - out-of-country requests for application appointments. During the last two years, out of country applicants alone have increased dramatically to nearly 5,000 per week, while the state Motor Vehicle Administration can only process about 1,700 per week. The rising costs of processing these applications and separating legitimate ones from fraudulent ones are ballooning MV costs so much so that they are threatening to drain resources away from health and education programs, Mr. Kuo stated. Mr. Porcari urged the legislature to take immediate action stating that the security of the licensing system was at stake. Quite so.

If the O’Malley administration pushes ahead with trying to fix the license situation during the current session of the General Assembly, it will face intense opposition from longstanding political allies of the governor like Casa de Maryland and the ACLU, both of which oppose any effort to deny licenses to illegals.

Support is growing for a bill introduced this week by Del. Ron George, Anne Arundel County Republican, and Sen. Norman Stone, Baltimore County Democrat, requiring driver’s-license applicants to prove they are legally present in the U.S. by presenting a Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport. Mr. Kuo puts the cost of implementing the lawful-presence measure at zero because the state already has all the necessary computer infrastructure in place to get the job done. Yesterday, Mr. George told us that he already has 61 cosponsors (10 short of a majority in the House), and he expressed cautious optimism that the O’Malley administration, which opposed similar legislation last year, might be willing to work with him to get a lawful-presence bill through the General Assembly. If the governor is prepared to work with Mr. George and his bipartisan coalition supporting lawful-presence, it would be an extraordinary act of statesmanship, and could go a long way toward restoring the integrity of the state’s driver’s licenses.


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