ANNAPOLIS – A bill to prohibit illegal immigrants from obtaining Maryland drivers’ licenses survived a slaughter of what opponents have decried as an “anti-immigrant platform” in the House Judiciary Committee last week.
The panel killed several other bills requiring local and state law enforcement agencies to detain illegal aliens and contact federal officials.
Legislators put the driver’s license bill on hold — neither killing it nor approving it.
Delegate Herbert H. McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, bills sponsor, argues his “common sense” bill would complement federal law because it prevents the state from rewarding immigrants who enter and live in the country illegally.
Prospects for the remaining bill, however, are grim.
Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Prince George’s, told immigrant advocates Monday, “There will be no damaging legislation that comes out of Annapolis this year.”
Bill proponents say the legislation rewards those who follow immigration laws.
House Minority Whip Anthony J. O’Donnell, R-Calvert, voted in favor of several bills targeting illegal immigrants.
“If you’re here in this country illegally, I don’t think you should be (issued) driver’s licenses,” he said.
Giving licenses to undocumented immigrants, he said, contributed to previous terrorism problems in the country.
“If you happen to be from the Middle East, you’re here and you’re an illegal, you shouldn’t get a driver’s license,” O’Donnell said. “It’s part of what was the problem with people getting IDs in September 11th,” referring to the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Virginia.
The panel’s hold on the bill indicates lawmakers are considering it, O’Donnell said.
“I think some members wanted to look at it a little bit closer,” he said.
Meanwhile, immigration advocates celebrated the defeat of several bills they had called “anti-human” and “anti-immigrant.”
At the rally, delegates and community leaders said the struggle against this type of legislation is not over.
“I think that we need to still keep on fighting because there’s still one bad bill left,” said Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery, during the rally.
Gutierrez also urged supporters to keep fighting McMillan’s bill.
“We need to come back here if necessary and show him what the Latino community really wants,” she said.
The Judiciary Committee gave unfavorable reports to bills that would have required state, Baltimore and Harford County law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants and contact federal authorities. The committee also struck down a bill to prohibit owners from knowingly allowing illegal aliens to drive a vehicle.
In the past week, the House Health and Government Operations Committee also killed a bill to prohibit the state from accepting consular registration cards as proof of identify.
For now, the licensing bill’s fate remains unresolved.
“It’s a big issue and I think it’s a good, sensible piece of legislation,” O’Donnell said. “I think the bill has strong support.”