E-Alerts & Press Releases

PJC Opposes Anti-immigrant Motor Vehicle Regulations

On October 16, 2006, the Public Justice Center (PJC), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU-MD) submitted comments in opposition to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MVA) proposed rules regarding the documents an individual may use as proof of identity, age, and residence when applying for a driver's permit, license, or identification card.  These regulations are being proposed in part of a long running campaign to make it more difficult for eligible immigrants to obtain MVA documents.

The opposition comments, drafted by PJC Public Policy Director Ricardo Flores, make several points.  First, because the MVA has all the power it needs to thwart attempted fraud under current regulations, there is no need for the proposed regulations. Second, the basis for the proposed elimination of two types of primary identity documents — certificates of naming and school records — is far from self-explanatory and should be clearly and convincingly articulated prior to any approval. Developing document criteria, rather than categorically accepting or denying documents based on if they were issued domestically or abroad, is a more effective way of addressing the issue of fraud and ensuring that all Maryland residents have equal access to licenses and permits.
Finally, for security reasons, immigrant access to driver’s licenses, a matter of right under current Maryland law, needs to be safeguarded.  Experts have time and again made clear that denying immigrant access to licenses threatens our national security.  As most recently articulated:

The national debate about the connection between drivers licenses and security has been characterized by misinformation, and a lack of appreciation of the role that driver license and state identification databases play in national security and law enforcement . . . Many reflexively view granting drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants as a reward and an act of complicity in their violation of the law.  Yet refusing to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants means taking 20 million illegal immigrants out of the largest law enforcement database in the country.  Thus, denial of licenses is a policy prescription that hampers law enforcement far more than it enhances it.

(Donald Kerwin and Margaret D. Stock, National Security and Immigration Policy: Reclaiming Terms, Measuring Success, and Setting Priorities (July, 2006), pp. 45-46.)

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