Maryland Told It Must Comply with Federal Real ID Driver’s License Act

February 1, 2007

Maryland must comply with the federal Real ID Act, Transportation Secretary nominee John D. Porcari told the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The Real ID Act mandates that states verify documents proving an applicant is a U.S. citizen or has some other legal standing, such as a visa, before issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards. In effect, it bars states from giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Without the new identification, people would be barred from airplanes and federal buildings without other federally issued identification, such as a passport.

“We need to get moving now on the requirements, at least as we now know them to be,” Porcari said.

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue regulations implementing the 2005 law by summer. States have until May 2008 to comply.

But states have balked at the estimated at $11 billion national cost. And immigrant advocates claim the measure punishes people seeking a better life.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. said state lawmakers might demand repeal of the Real ID Act, as Maine legislators have. He said, “No way, Jose, at the present time” to legislation that would enable the Motor Vehicle Administration to follow the federal law’s requirements on legal residency. He described the federal law as “one of the biggest unfunded mandates that’s ever existed.”

Over the past four years, Maryland lawmakers have defeated bills that would prevent undocumented immigrants from getting driver’s licenses. Sen. Janet Greenip, an Anne Arundel County Republican, has introduced such a bill this year.

Del. Michael D. Smigiel, a Cecil County Republican, said a federal standard “makes logical sense. Sometimes we have to put the politics of national security above local politics of how we deal with illegal immigrants or undocumented workers.”

If a state doesn’t comply, licenses must clearly state that they cannot be accepted for federal identification purposes, under the federal law. Porcari raised the possibility of a two-tiered system in Maryland under which two kinds of licenses are issued.


Information from: The (Baltimore) Sun,

Topics Legislation Personal Auto Maryland

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