Friday, September 19, 2003

Politicians in Montgomery County, Md., struck yet another blow against U.S. immigration law on Tuesday, as the county council voted unanimously to permit illegal immigrants to obtain public services using ID cards issued by foreign consulates, such as Mexico’s fraud-plagued matricula consular. County Executive Doug Duncan praised the council’s vote. According to Mr. Duncan, illegals have been unable to fully participate in the American dream because they couldn’t produce valid identification.

But the matricula consular is basically worthless as a form of ID. In testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration in June, Steve McCraw, assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Intelligence, said that the Bureau and the Justice Department have concluded that the card is not a reliable means of identification. Since Mexico has no centralized database to coordinate issuance of the matricula consular, it’s possible for multiple cards to be issued with the same name and photograph. Despite some new security features, the card remains easy to counterfeit, Mr. McCraw said. Noting that federal officials have discovered individuals from many different countries in possession of the card, Mr. McCraw warned that the “ability of foreign nationals to use the matricula consular to create a well-documented, but fictitious, identity in the United States provides an opportunity for terrorists to move freely in the United States without triggering name-based watch lists that are disseminated to local police officers. It also allows them to board planes without revealing their true identity.”

Disturbing as that is, the council’s vote on the issue is also symptomatic of a deeper problem in Rockville: the fact that county politicians have gone out of their way to put out the welcome mat for individuals who are illegally in the United States. During this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly, for example, the Montgomery County delegation voted en masse for legislation granting driver’s licenses to illegals and permitting them to pay substantially lower in-state college tuition rates. Unfortunately, such a welcoming attitude toward lawbreakers can have tragic consequences.

This newspaper has reported on the appalling case of Jose Guillermo Alvarado, a convicted child molester who was indicted in July on charges of raping a 5-year-old boy this spring. In 1997, he pled guilty to fondling a 10-year-old boy in Montgomery County and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended. When he was released in 1998, Alvarado was deported to his native El Salvador. Sometime between 1998 and this spring, he snuck back across the border and made his way back to Montgomery County, where he is awaiting trial on the new charges.

County residents need to begin asking themselves why a predator like Alvarado, after serving time in the county jail, would decide, after illegally re-entering the United States, to resettle in their jurisdiction, of all places. Part of the answer, we think, is obvious: He understood that, in a county where politicians openly flout immigration law, he stood a better chance of evading detection and being left alone than he would in a jurisdiction where immigration enforcement is taken seriously. It’s time for Annapolis and Washington to send a message to irresponsible politicians like Mr. Duncan and the county council. A good start would be to deduct the money spent on non-emergency services for illegal immigrants from federal and state aid to jurisdictions like Montgomery County.

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