Immigrant driver's license update

The House and Senate appear to be on a definite collision course over how to handle driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Julie Bykowicz reports that last night the Senate passed its version of a bill designed to make Maryland compliant with the federal Real ID act. That bill would require everyone to prove legal residency in the U.S. when getting a new license or renewing one. (That means, presumably, that you wouldn't be able to renew by mail or on-line, at least the first time.)

The House, however, gave final approval last night to a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants who now have licenses to keep driving. If they renew without proving their legal status, they would be given licenses labeled "not federally compliant."

House leaders believe their version would comply with Real ID just as well as the Senate version (more on this below), but the issue here is that Maryland would definitely not be compliant if it does nothing, and there appears to be a real chance that the two chambers will deadlock in the last couple of weeks of the session. Senate President Mike Miller said yesterday that the House plan "rewards criminal conduct," which doesn't sound to me like compromise is in the works.

In other news on the topic, I got an e-mail yesterday from an attorney with the ACLU providing further analysis of the situation (and taking exception to my previous post on the subject) which I'll paste below the jump.Dear Mr. Green,

My name is Ajmel Quereshi and I am an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and Director of its Immigrants Rights Project. I write in response to your blog post this morning entitled “Here’s Why REAL ID Affects You.” For your information, I would like to provide some clarification regarding a couple of points in your post. I would be happy to discuss these further if you would like.

First, the REAL ID Act of 2005 explicitly provides that a state may, in addition to any compliant REAL ID cards it issues, issue separate non-compliant cards which do not meet REAL ID’s requirements, including lawful presence. See REAL ID Act of 2005, 202(d)(11), Pub. L. No. 109-13, 119 Stat. 315. Section 202 however provides that these cards must clearly state that they cannot be used for federal identification purposes and be marked with insignia differentiating them from compliant cards. Id. House Bill 387 provides that any cards given to persons without lawful status meet these requirements. See HB 387, page 16, lines 13-23. Accordingly, your implication that Maryland, by giving cards to persons without lawful status, would contravene REAL ID’s requirements fails to account for these sections.

Second, in addition, we also question the likelihood that the federal government will actually bar Maryland residents from air travel. This argument discounts the significant opposition to REAL ID nationwide. Eleven states have passed legislation prohibiting implementation of REAL ID. Furthermore, eight additional states have passed legislation denouncing REAL ID. Likewise, many of the states’ criticisms have been voiced by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. As governor, she vowed not to comply with the Act, and in June of 2008, she signed a law forbidding her state from cooperating. Matthew Benson, Napolitano: Real ID a No-Go in Arizona, Ariz. Repub., June 18, 2008. While she was chairwoman of the National Governors Association, the organization denounced Real ID, describing it as an unfunded mandate that states could not afford. National Governors Association et al., The Real ID Act: National Impact Analysis (2006). Since becoming Secretary, she has explained that she wants to explore “realistic options” for changes to identification, but not necessarily “under the rubric of REAL ID.” Audrey Hudson, Napolitano Debates Real ID: Will Examine Alternatives to Driver’s Licenses, Wash. Times, Feb. 20, 2009.

Thank you in advance for your attention to these points.


Ajmel Quereshi

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