Driver's license no substitute for legal status [Letter]

September 28, 2014

What do you call a person who has been granted the right to drive in Maryland, but has no legal right to stay in the United States ("Raid spurs immigrants fear of driver's licenses," Sept. 20)? Is he or she a semi-citizen? A second-class citizen? A quasi-citizen? If not an illegal immigrant, what would be a fair description? Decriminalized citizen?

Once Maryland opted to license undocumented immigrants to drive, it was entirely predictable that federal immigration police would make use of the MVA database to weed out those drivers without papers. Is ICE not charged with enforcing existing laws? Did the well-meaning legislators, immigration advocates and Gov. Martin O'Malley not see this coming?

This sad episode shows the futility of trying to address the immigration crisis on a local or state level. Whether the liberal leadership of Maryland was being humanely inclusive or cynically manipulative of the Latino population, they effectively set those drivers-without-papers up for deportation.

Extending some of the rights of citizenship to certain groups while withholding others is a recipe for deepening inequality and undermining democracy. Instead of new and inferior categories of quasi-citizenship, we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Mark Chalkley, Baltimore

The writer is an instructor in the U.S. Citizenship Preparation program at Baltimore City Community College.

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