MARCH 31, 2009
Maryland lawmakers have approved a measure that allows illegal immigrants to keep their driver’s licenses after a federal law—enacted to protect the country from terrorists—prohibiting it kicks in.
The state has long been a magnet for illegal aliens seeking official government credentials, but the 9/11 Commission put a damper on its sanctuary bragging rights by recommending that states offer secure licenses because several of the 2001 hijackers who lived in the U.S. illegally had easily obtained the cards.
Congress subsequently enacted the Federal ID Act, which requires verification of every applicant’s identity and lawful status in the United States. The goal is to establish standardized driver’s licenses nationwide that are less prone to fraud and prevent terrorists from abusing the system.
States will have to confirm that documents, such as a birth certificate or passport, submitted to get a license are legitimate and that the applicant is in the country legally. A newly created federal database will link all data which must be checked before issuing a license to assure that the applicant has not been banned from driving in another state.
As the deadline approaches for states to meet the new federal standards, the Maryland House of Delegates passed legislation that allows illegal immigrants who already have licenses to renew them without documenting their legal status. Under the measure, those drivers would be issued licenses marked “not federally compliant.” The Senate’s version requires everyone to prove their lawful status in the country, however.
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration issued nearly 7,000 licenses to illegal immigrants last year alone. The agency’s administrator told state lawmakers at hearings last month that fraud involving licensing foreigners has more than quadrupled in recent years.
Seven other states (Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon and Washington) do not require drivers to prove legal status in the country to obtain licenses. Under the Federal ID Act that will change, unless they enact a two-tier system like Maryland’s that accommodates illegal aliens.
Some states have vowed to completely ignore the new law by passing legislation ordering officials not to enforce it. Maine, Georgia, Montana and Wyoming are a few of the states that in 2007 kicked off a defiance rally opposing the Federal ID Act.
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