ANNAPOLIS – Jason Sekzer moved from an entry-level position at Cantor Fitzgerald to vice president of operations in four years, a 31-year-old rising star for one of the world’s largest brokerage firms.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he perished with 2,800 other victims when two jetliners hit the World Trade Center towers. Months later, rescuers found a 3-inch bone fragment that once belonged to the 6-foot-1-inch executive.
“I watched my son turn to dust,” said Wilton Sekzer, Jason’s father and a retired New York City Police detective. “We can not allow another 9/11.”
Sekzer told state lawmakers his story Wednesday while opposing a bill to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get a Maryland driver’s license. The legislation comes as Virginia is attempting to do just the opposite in light of Sept. 11.
Sponsored by Delegate Joseph Vallario, D-Prince George’s, Maryland’s bill expands the types of documentation someone can use to get a state driver’s license and enjoys support from the state’s large Hispanic community.
Under the proposal, immigrants may present identification cards issued by foreign governments or naming certificates by religious entities as proof of identity, both barred by current law.
Opponents, including the Maryland State Police and the Motor Vehicle Administration, say these identification cards are impossible to verify, raising the potential for fraudulent documents.
Sept. 11 hijackers used mostly Virginia and Florida licenses as personal identification when boarding airliners two years ago. Richmond lawmakers last month passed a bill to tighten license requirements.
And while hijackers got their licenses legally, victims’ families believe that looser restrictions could facilitate another terrorist attack.
“What we’d have is a situation that defies logic and boggles the mind,” Sekler said. “Virginia and Florida have seen the error of their ways.”
Gov. Robert Ehrlich has vowed to follow the MVA’s recommendation and veto Vallario’s proposal, should it get through the General Assembly.
But that hasn’t stopped immigrant groups from lobbying hard. More than 100 Latinos flooded the House Judicial Proceedings committee room to make up in volume what the Sept. 11 survivors brought in emotion.
Through a translator, an illegal immigrant named Rodolfo – who declined to give his last name – said he works two jobs each day in construction and needs a license to commute from his Hyattsville home.
“There are a lot of reasons people need drivers’ licenses,” Rodolfo said, holding his 2-year-old son. “Sometimes there’s no one to give me a ride to drop off my baby in day care.”
Supporters say the bill makes sense for many reasons. Unlicensed drivers complicate police efforts to identify who is behind the wheel, and these same drivers are more likely to flee accident scenes in fear of being caught without identification.
Plus, national law enforcement can more easily track who is in the country and where they live, if people register with the state. That doesn’t include economic considerations, like transportation to and from work.
Vallario has 36 House co-sponsors, many of whom come from Montgomery County, where 26.7 percent of the population is foreign-born.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Maryland Catholic Conference and Casa de Maryland also back the effort.
“Nobody comes to Maryland for a driver’s license,” said Kim Propeak, a lawyer with Casa de Maryland. “They come here to work, sometimes two or three jobs a day.”
Sept. 11 victims and their families would hear none of it.
In a pre-hearing press conference sponsored by the Maryland Coalition Against Terrorism, family members of the dead – including Sekzer – recounted the pain of their losses, and lambasted legislators for rewarding misbehavior.
“You’re creating inducements for people to come to this country illegally,” said Stephen Push of Washington, whose wife died onboard Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon. “It creates a sea of immigrants, and terrorists are fish that can swim in that sea.”