ANNAPOLIS – Maryland delegates are proposing legislation to stop the Motor Vehicle Administration from issuing new driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Currently, there is no law that prohibits illegal immigrants from obtaining a license, and there won’t be until 2008, when a federal law ending the practice takes effect, the bill’s sponsor says.
Delegate Herbert McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, and 45 other delegates introduced a bill Friday that, if passed, would prohibit the MVA from giving a license to anyone who can not show documents that prove he or she is in the country legally.
Buel Young, spokesman for the MVA, said citizenship or legal residence is not a question that is currently asked of applicants.
“The MVA does not require proof of legal presence in order to get a driver’s license,” he said. “What is required is what’s required of any individual applying for a Maryland driver’s license or state ID.”
McMillan has proposed the bill two times before, but said the legislation is even more necessary now because of the Real ID Act that was passed by the U.S. Congress last May.
One component of the Real ID Act will require the applicant to show he or she is a U.S. citizen or is in the country legally in order to get a driver’s license or identification card beginning in 2008.
McMillan said his bill would implement that aspect of the Real ID Act in Maryland this October – partly because of a lawsuit filed by Hispanic immigrant advocacy group CASA of Maryland, which McMillan says has been filed to enable illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.
“It’s theoretically possible for illegal immigrants to prevail in court and force us to start giving them driver’s licenses,” he said. “Do you really want to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses for two years until 2008 and then, suddenly, they can’t have them anymore?”
Officials of CASA did not respond to requests for comment over a two-day period on McMillan’s bill. When CASA filed its suit in November, the group told reporters that foreign-born residents, who were here legally, were being denied driver’s licenses by the MVA.
Young declined to comment Wednesday on the CASA suit.
Under the Real ID Act, each state’s identification cards and driver’s licenses must meet the requirements defined in the law in order to be valid for use as identification.
Young said the Real ID Act was something that the states will have to comply with.
“It’s going to have to be something that’s going to have to occur if we wish for the state-issued driver’s licenses and ID’s to be recognized as acceptable as verification of proof of identity for access to federal entities,” he said.
Ehrlich’s press secretary, Henry Fawell, said the governor hasn’t stated a policy on giving licenses to illegal immigrants, and that the he has not taken a position on this bill. “He does not take a position on any of the bills until they are on his desk,” Fawell said.