Md. To Revoke Over 150 Driver's Licenses

July 31, 2009|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

The Motor Vehicle Administration has taken steps to revoke more than 150 driver's licenses - issued before a new law barring illegal immigrants from obtaining licenses took effect - in connection with a federal investigation into fraud.

Civil liberties and immigrant rights groups have raised concerns about the process for canceling the licenses as well as the potential use of racial profiling in the decisions. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland wrote state lawmakers Thursday addressing those concerns and others, including whether the intent of the new law might have been violated.

Questions about licenses issued by a former employee arose as part of a federal investigation, and the MVA notified scores of individuals around the beginning of June that their licenses or identification cards had been canceled.

After the ACLU and CASA of Maryland, the state's largest immigrant advocacy group, objected to a lack of due process, the MVA reinstated the licenses and gave individuals until mid-August to meet with a senior examiner to review documentation needed to obtain state-issued licenses or identification.

MVA spokesman Buel C. Young declined to comment on the investigation.

Most of the licensees who received notices had applied using non-U.S. documents and could not prove they were in the country legally. Advocacy groups said they would continue to press state officials to explain how those people were targeted.

"We just want to make sure there was no profiling and this was done free of any type of bias," said Sebastian G. Amar, a CASA staff attorney.

Under a law passed this year, the state has stopped accepting license applications from people who cannot prove that they are in the country legally. Illegal immigrants already carrying licenses would have the opportunity for one renewal, and those licenses would expire by 2015.

The law puts the state in compliance with a federal security act known as Real ID.

Ajmel Quereshi, director of an ACLU immigrant rights project, said he worries that the MVA made a "blanket denial" to people who applied using out-of-country documentation and that state officials would reject illegal immigrants whose documents prove to be legitimate after the new law took effect in June.

But if re-examined documents are legitimate, Young said, the licenses would be valid. But he noted that officials could be questioning documents used to prove identity or Maryland residency. MVA Administrator John T. Kuo has said that fraud cases, most involving licenses for foreign nationals, have more than quadrupled in recent years.

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