Marie-Therese received her Maryland driver's license this spring, something her 15-year-old daughter might never do. The family illegally emigrated from West Africa to Baltimore four years ago, and a law that goes into effect Monday means new drivers who cannot prove their lawful status in the United States won't be able to get a license.
"She is upset," Marie-Therese said of her daughter, who is a Baltimore high school student.
"She told me, 'I want to drive, too.' "
The mother, who didn't want the family's last name to be used for fear of being deported, took her daughter to Annapolis this year to try to persuade lawmakers to keep Maryland's status as one of just four states that grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
But with a looming October deadline to comply with a federal security act known as Real ID, lawmakers instead struck a last-minute compromise, ending the ability of new drivers to obtain a license without proof of legal presence in the U.S. but allowing those who already have one to renew.
Those licenses will be marked "not acceptable for federal purposes," meaning they may not be used to board airplanes or enter federal buildings. Those will expire July 1, 2015, at the latest.
The change puts Maryland in rare company.
According to the American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrations, only Utah has a comparable two-tiered program.
That state allows illegal immigrants with a tax identification number to apply for a "driving privilege card," which also is not accepted federally.
Lawmakers and immigrants-rights advocates say they will be watching closely to see if Maryland's compromise on renewals - which displeased people on both sides of the issue - works.
It's unclear whether illegal immigrants will choose to be singled out by getting licenses that look different. And some worry that the two kinds of licenses will lead to discrimination by police officers and court officials.
Others, including Republican lawmakers who have long fought for an end to licensing illegal immigrants, say the two-tiered system may prove too onerous. It's unrealistic, they say, for security agents across the country to learn about the various styles.
"I think this is only going to add to the confusion," said Del. Ron George, an Anne Arundel County Republican. "The sooner we get away from the two licenses, the more secure we're going to be."
Motor Vehicle Administration spokesman Buel C. Young said he expects the switch to be seamless.
"The new law is extremely clear," he said.
MVA officials unveiled Friday the design for the noncompliant license. It is identical to the traditional license but has the "not acceptable for federal purposes" phrase in small black letters across the top. The restriction is also noted on the back.
Though the differences between the license types are small, Marie-Therese said she thinks it might be enough to dissuade illegal immigrants from renewing.
"What we want is to be like everyone else," she said. When her license expires in 2014, she said, she doubts she'll renew.
She envisioned a scenario where police judge people based on their style of license. "Maybe they'll say, 'This one is for good people and this one is for bad people,' " she said.
"That is absolutely a concern," said Ajmel Quereshi, director of immigrant rights projects for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. He said police could begin using the "not federally compliant" license as reasonable suspicion to inquire further about a person's legal status.
Friday was the final day that Maryland residents could apply for a license without showing proof of lawful presence. Out-of-country applicant appointments were booked months ago, but some people planted themselves at the MVA headquarters in Glen Burnie, hoping for an opening before the 4:30 p.m. closing.
For the past few years, MVA has scheduled about 2,000 appointments each week for prospective drivers born abroad. Ten offices processed foreign applicants.
Marlene Montes-Terwilliger, a volunteer who helps non-English-speaking applicants translate and gather the necessary residency and identification documents, said she has been busy helping squeeze drivers into the last few appointments. She said she took an Annapolis resident on an eight-hour round-trip ride to Western Maryland Thursday to take the driving test after MVA employees told her it was the only open slot in the state. On Friday, she was in Glen Burnie helping two more applicants.
Immigrants, she said, had hoped they would have until the end of the year and were shocked that lawmakers made the new policy effective so quickly.
"It's cruel the way it was done," she said.
Lawmakers say speed was of the essence to end fraud. During hearings this winter in Annapolis, MVA Administrator John T. Kuo told lawmakers that fraud cases, most of which involve licensing people born in other countries, have more than quadrupled in recent years.