As of May 11, 2008, Federal agencies may not accept driver’s licenses or identification cards for any official purpose if they are issued by a state that is not complying with the Federal REAL ID Act. “Official purpose” means boarding aircraft, entering nuclear power plants, entering federal facilities and any other purpose defined by the Department of Homeland Security through regulations. Because Maryland has not complied with the requirements yet, the State had to file for an extension to the deadline. Although the extension was granted, many legislators feel that it is time to start moving toward compliance.
With that in mind Delegate Ron George and Delegate Jim Malone introduced bills, with more than 60 cosponsors, that would have created full compliance in Maryland. However, the House Judiciary Committee amended the bill and to create a two-tiered system for Maryland’s driver’s licenses that granted amnesty to illegal immigrants that already have Maryland licenses. Maryland is one of only four states that give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The Motor Vehicles Administration estimates that there are over 300,000 of them in the State at this time.
Given the drastic change in the legislation, over forty democrats and republicans stood up on the House floor and removed their names as cosponsors of the bill, including Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. The bill was later voted on and narrowly passed. At the same time, the Senate passed a very different bill that would strengthen Maryland’s license system and would require lawful presence to obtain a driver’s license. Governor O’Malley announced yesterday that he will sign either bill, despite the drastic policy differences between them. A conference committee will be appointed to try to find a compromise between the House and the Senate before the end of session.