Luz Maria Sanchez is wide awake at 6 a.m. at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), having arrived at midnight to be first in a line of about 50 immigrants and illegal aliens waiting for the Beltsville branch to open.
“I’m tired. I haven’t slept,” said Miss Sanchez, a 34-year-old Salvadoran immigrant living in Hyattsville. “But [if I want a driver’s license] I have to wait.”
Overnight lines outside several MVA branches have evolved since the agency last month stopped taking appointments for immigrants to get driver’s licenses and began a walk-in process.
Maryland license applicants do not have to be U.S. citizens, needing only to produce a variety of documents to prove state residency as well as attend a three-hour drug and alcohol course.
Immigrants and illegal aliens arrive at the MVA as early as 11 p.m., napping in cars in hopes of seeing an agent when the office opens at 7 a.m.—an hour and a half before doors open to the general public. When the walk-in process began, some said they returned up to five nights—skipping school or work—because agents could not see the hundreds waiting for a limited number of spots.
“It feels like . . . discrimination because we are the only people who have to do this,” said William Medina, a Salvadoran immigrant on a tourist visa who lives in Oxon Hill. “I think it’s something to make you quit, to make you say you don’t want to do this anymore. But they are wrong. I will be here every day because I want to do things the right way and follow the law.”
But MVA officials say each person in line is guaranteed a chance to go through the agency’s pre-screening process, which weeds out applicants who have insufficient or incorrect documents.