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January 02, 2006

Write your own driver's license in Maryland

Whatever your views on immigration policy, and mine are moderately pro-immigration, this is so outrageous it is to laugh:

A Maryland state delegate issued a report indicating that, in the words of a WaPo article today, "[t]he number of people driving in Maryland without a license has spiked dramatically in recent years, with many of the offenders cited in Prince George's and Montgomery counties." The delegate, Luiz Simmons, announced these findings as he called for legislation to incarcerate people who drive without a valid license, as Virginia and D.C. law apparently provide already.

Obviously, driving without a license is correlated with higher accident rates, and those drivers certainly lack insurance. But the penalties are fairly modest:

In Maryland, driving without a license carries a $315 fine but no threat of jail time, even for multiple offenses.

"You never even have to show up in court," Simmons said in an interview. "All you have to do is keep paying" the fine.

So what's the absolutely worst argument you can make against this proposal? Hint: It's already been made.
But Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa of Maryland, a Silver Spring-based immigrants' rights organization, said: "Even though Delegate Simmons says he is not targeting any group, it is very clear this is going to impact the immigrant community, Latinos and other immigrants."

Torres said he thinks illegal immigrants account for a significant part of the increase in unlicensed drivers in the state. "Regardless of whether they have driver's licenses, it is how people take their kids to school or go to work. That is the reality," Torres said.
And this reality is made worse by the fact that Maryland, unlike Virginia and D.C., allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. No matter, according to Torres.
However, Torres said, the state Motor Vehicle Administration often takes four to six months to grant driver's licenses to immigrants, even if they are in the country legally. Immigrant applicants must rely on foreign documents, such as passports, to obtain driver's licenses.

"The solution is not to penalize people who are driving without driver's licenses," Torres said. "The solution is to speed up the process at MVA to assure that legal and undocumented workers have access to driver's licenses faster."
Failing that, of course, we can abolish the whole bigoted concept of a driver's license.