The country's worst DMV

Posted: Sep 11, 2003 12:00 AM

The latest amnesty for illegal aliens, desperately sought for years by pro-immigration advocates and seemingly derailed by 9-11, is almost here. California Gov. Gray Davis has signed a bill giving illegal aliens the right to obtain driver's licenses in what is an enormous step toward the legal acceptance of illegal aliens and proof that ethnic pandering still trumps security in the United States.

A year ago, Davis vetoed a bill to allow illegal aliens to get driver's licenses. Back then, the intrepid Gray insisted that he wouldn't sign a bill unless it required that applicants have jobs and allowed the Department of Motor Vehicles to perform background checks. Now, the trepid Gray -- desperate for Hispanic votes to avoid his recall -- has signed a bill that does neither.

It is tempting to conclude that this is another reason why, if the recall fails, California should sink into the Pacific Ocean. But other states accept California driver's licenses, so the Davis sellout affects the nation. "We're giving away the country's most valuable document to people who are living here illegally," says immigration expert Marti Dinerstein, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. "It's a very dangerous situation."

The driver's license is a de facto national ID card, so handing it out to illegals is a near-amnesty. In most circumstances, if you have a driver's license, you won't be asked for any other form of ID. A driver's license is often the key to securing a job, getting a library card, voting, entering a federal building, getting a hazardous-materials license and boarding an airplane. It is the "breeder document" necessary to obtain all sorts of other official documentation.

Almost all of the Sept. 11 hijackers had state-issued or counterfeit driver's licenses or ID cards. Instead of tightening up the requirements for licenses in response to that attack, California has loosened them. California will soon give out licenses to illegals who have a federal Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or a "matricula consular," an ID card issued by Mexican consulates. Translation: It will give out licenses to pretty much anyone.

The Internal Revenue Service created the ITIN in 1996 to encourage illegals to pay taxes. The IRS has issued 6 million ITINs with almost no security or authentication procedures. Only 2 million were used for filing returns, according to Marti Dinerstein. They are instead used as a form of ID. The IRS recently warned state DMVs: "If your state is considering legislation to accept ITINs as proof of identity for driver's licenses, please alert your legislators to potential security risks."

The matricula consular is Mexico's way to give illegals in the United States an ID when they can't get a legitimate one. Twelve states accept the safeguard-free matricula when getting driver's licenses, according to Dinerstein, and localities and banks have begun to accept them for other purposes. Homeland security czar Tom Ridge has warned that they do so "at their peril."

Apparently, none of these messages got through to Gray Davis, or, more likely, he just doesn't care. Security-conscious states should take a page from Florida, where 9-11 ringleader Mohamed Atta had a driver's license. Florida no longer gives full reciprocity to licenses from 20 states where procedures are lax; another primary form of ID besides a license from those states is necessary to get a Florida license. California should now top everyone's list of the lax.

Stronger medicine comes from Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, who wants to pass a law denying some federal highway funds to states that grant licenses to illegals. The ultimate answer would be for Congress to set certain minimal security standards for state driver's licenses. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has passed a resolution opposing the granting of licenses to illegals, and is all but begging for a comprehensive effort to tighten and modernize the licensing process.

In the meantime, California needs to revoke Gray Davis' license to govern. He's dangerous.