Lawmakers Approve Illegal Immigrant License Ban

Kathleen Miller, AP, April 14, 2009

Illegal immigrants will no longer be able to hold Maryland licenses as of July 1, 2015, under legislation approved shortly before the state legislature adjourned its 2009 session.

Legislators have wrestled all session with how to end Maryland’s status as the only state east of the Rocky Mountains that issues licenses to illegal immigrants, with many worried the state had become a magnet for fraud.

The House of Delegates had approved a bill that would allow illegal immigrants who already have licenses to renew them and receive a separate, distinct ID, that could not be used to board planes or enter federal buildings. But the Senate wanted to deny driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants altogether.

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State leaders were scrambling to pass the legislation in an effort to comply with the federal REAL ID law, which requires states to strengthen their identification documents.

Maryland has met some REAL ID benchmarks, but four remained unfulfilled because the state doesn’t check applicants’ residency status, according to Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration chief John Kuo. When the law is implemented, the federal government will only accept these new ID cards for activities like boarding airline flights and entering federal buildings.

Lawmakers said the measure meets REAL ID standards for lawful residency status.

Many lawmakers who favored a two-license system said they had hoped to push the expiration date further into the future to give President Barack Obama’s administration as much time as possible to pass comprehensive immigration reform before tens of thousands of undocumented Maryland residents lose their licenses.

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