Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: Local Editorial: Don't rebreak Maryland license laws

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Opinion,Local Editorial

A Maryland General Assembly panel is considering two bills, submitted by Dels. Jolene Ivey, D-Prince George's, and Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery, that would repeal a 2009 law prohibiting those without Social Security numbers or other appropriate documentation from obtaining or renewing Maryland driver's licenses. All licenses issued in Maryland before 2009 will have expired by 2015, ensuring that all are held legally.

In effect, these bills would break a system the state has already fixed. Advocates who claim that licensing illegal immigrants would increase the number of insured motorists on the road offer no firm data to support this claim. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators notes that people do not have to be citizens to purchase, register or insure a vehicle, so there's nothing preventing them from buying policies now.

The insurance argument is a red herring to distract citizens' attention from the real issue. The 2009 law was passed after the federal government threatened to bar Maryland residents from boarding commercial airplanes or entering federal buildings unless the Motor Vehicle Administration verified the identity and legal status of all driver's license applicants under the federal Real ID Act.

The Real ID Act was passed by a bipartisan vote in Congress in 2005 after the 9/11 Commission found that 18 of the hijackers who attacked the Pentagon and World Trade Centers in New York had fraudulently obtained state-issued drivers licenses from Florida, Virginia and California and successfully used them as a "terrorist's back door" to embed themselves in the United States.

Commission Counsel Janice Kephart pointed out that five of the eight hijackers who were issued driver's licenses in Northern Virginia a month before the bloodiest attack on American soil "based their Virginia identification documents on the residency information of one bribed Salvadoran" -- who was himself in the U.S. illegally.

Last December, the Department of Homeland Security noted that Maryland, which was dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with Real ID, was one of just 13 states to meet all of the federal law's requirements, which also ensures that visas and driver's licenses expire at the same time.

Maryland's 2009 law is working. For example, the MVA canceled 8,000 licensing interviews on one day when it discovered that the applicants were not even Maryland residents. Repealing it will not only jeopardize the security of Maryland citizens, but turn the state into a giant magnet for fraud.

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