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Maryland bill would update license rules
By Keyonna Summers
December 8, 2005

Maryland lawmakers must act now instead of waiting until 2008 for the federal government to keep illegal aliens, foreign terrorists and other non-U.S. citizens from getting driver's licenses in the state, Delegate Herb McMillan says.
"I don't think we should ... wait for the federal government to issue regulations," says Mr. McMillan, Anne Arundel County Republican. "Stricter standards for our driver's licenses are necessary and inevitable."
Mr. McMillan intends to propose legislation again in January that would require the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to verify that applicants are in the U.S. legally.
The legislation, which Mr. McMillan will submit for the third consecutive General Assembly session, also would require the agency to match license expiration dates with the visa expiration dates of foreign applicants and to extend the expiration dates for immigrants in the process of renewing their visas.
The bill is similar to the Real ID Act, which requires motor vehicle agencies across the country by May 2008 to verify applicants' legal presence before issuing them licenses. The law was passed this year and standardizes the types of documents that can be used to obtain licenses.
Mr. McMillan's bill would take effect Oct. 1 and would streamline Maryland's licensing process more than a year ahead of the federal deadline.
The bill last year had 30 co-sponsors, but never reached a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. However, Mr. McMillan thinks the legislation has a better chance this year because the state must comply with the federal legislation.
Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario, a Prince George's Democrat who has previously submitted legislation to loosen licensing restrictions for immigrants, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. McMillan's statements come just weeks after 13 immigrants in Maryland filed suit against the MVA. The suit says the agency denied the immigrants a license or made it more difficult for them to obtain one, even though they showed proper documentation. The suit was filed by the CASA of Maryland advocacy group.
"If this law passes, their case becomes moot," Mr. McMillan says.
CASA officials say barring immigrants and illegal aliens from licenses also blocks them from getting insurance and taking driver-safety courses, which would make them more likely to flee accident scenes and less likely to report crimes.
Gustavo Torres, CASA's executive director, calls Mr. McMillan's legislation and the Real ID Act "a violation of civil rights." Maryland does not require legal presence for license applicants. The District and Virginia, which tightened its standards after several September 11 hijackers obtained licenses in the state, verify the legal presence, visa expiration date and Social Security number of license applicants.