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Illegal Immigrant, Illegal Driver?

On most matters related to illegal immigration, where you stand depends on whether you think we're being overrun by criminals or undermined by anti-foreigner hysteria.

The battle over driver's licenses in Maryland is different. There are people who deeply believe illegal immigrants are a threat to our way of life and who nonetheless support the notion that every driver on the road ought to be licensed.

After all, those of us who shell out big bucks for car insurance know that every unlicensed, uninsured driver is taking money out of our paychecks.

But Maryland's highways will soon gain tens of thousands of unlicensed motorists, thanks to an abrupt reversal by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

In the 2006 campaign, the governor won the Hispanic vote with appearances such as one at Casa de Maryland, the immigrant advocacy group in Takoma Park, where he told reporters that "I don't believe that at the state and local level that we should exacerbate the problem by enacting policies that put up . . . barriers to getting a driver's license or getting to and from work or home." Unlike the previous governor, who famously called multiculturalism "bunk," O'Malley seemed intent on embracing Hispanic immigrants, even if they arrived illegally.

So advocates such as Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) and Kim Propeack, Casa's director of political action, accused O'Malley of a "betrayal" -- both women used the word -- when he announced last week that Maryland would no longer issue licenses to people who cannot prove they are here legally. As of 2010, when the federal Real ID law kicks into effect, even people who have long held Maryland licenses will be denied renewals.

"The governor did not keep his promise," Gutierrez says. "This is what he promised me when he was begging for my vote for the slots referendum, which I gave him. And that is the last time I do that."

It's not as if Maryland has had the welcome mat out for drivers who are here illegally. "I can walk in, apply for a license and get it that day," Propeack notes, "but what immigrants have to go through is extraordinary." The process is so cumbersome that an industry of facilitators has emerged, charging $200 just to arrange an appointment with the motor vehicles office. "People are desperately trying to comply with the law," she says.

You can just hear the anti-illegal-immigrant crowd answering that one with a crack about how, if they were so desperate to be legal, they wouldn't have crossed the border without documents.

But you won't hear O'Malley's minions say anything like that. Secretary of Transportation John Porcari tells me his staff indeed recommended a two-tiered license system by which illegal immigrants could continue to get a basic license while the rest of us got a Real-ID-compliant license -- the revved-up version that will become the coin of the realm, thanks to a congressional mandate that uses licenses as a national identity card.

Porcari says Maryland was forced to reject the two-tier system not because the governor is suffering from low popularity and wants to glom onto the anti-immigrant movement but because "the national landscape is shifting" and Maryland could have found itself nearly alone in resisting Real ID.

But seven states are refusing to comply with Real ID, and 17 have condemned the law, which was passed after the 9/11 attacks and requires states to conduct time-consuming identity checks. The D.C. Council passed a resolution last fall calling for repeal of the Real ID regulations; Virginia has set aside money to enforce the federal rules. Neither Virginia nor the District allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

Porcari says all Marylanders will face "a customer-service nightmare" when they try to renew licenses starting in 2010. The new licenses will be used as identification for boarding airplanes and entering federal buildings.

Gutierrez says O'Malley should have waited to see if the next president scraps Real ID. "The governor is responding to the anti-immigrant voices in the state," she says.

O'Malley recognizes that denying licenses to a chunk of the state's workforce creates considerable dangers, Porcari says. "Some people will drive with or without a license because their livelihood depends on it," he says. "That's an inevitable side result of turning our state driver's licenses, which are meant to be a safety tool, into a de facto national ID card. That's terrible public policy."

But Porcari says federal regulations leave no choice: "We're making the best of a bad situation." His advice: Renew your license in the next year or two, even if it's not expiring, well before Real ID takes effect.

Or hope the next president sees Real ID for what it is: a hysterical overreaction to 9/11 that sounds tough but offers little added security. Yes, many 9/11 hijackers had Virginia driver's licenses, but there's no reason to believe they wouldn't be able to get licenses even under Real ID's stringent rules: The terrorists were here legally.

Please join me Tuesday at noon for "Raw Fisher Radio," a new weekly audio discussion at

By Marc Fisher |  January 27, 2008; 7:22 AM ET
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Not everything has to be about 9/11. Immigration policy in this country has been horribly lax for too long. I refuse to apologize for forcing government drones to be government drones and actually do their jobs, they need to identify people who do not belong here and remove them with extreme prejudice.

For the immigrants, tough. Laws are written to establish order in a civilization that abhors chaos. By breaking laws, they are bringing chaos into our system by creating cracks between which people who do not respect our country or our way of life can undermine it to their own benefit. 40 billion dollars a year is leeched out of the American economy back south of the border. The words of Mexico's former president, "Where there is a Mexican, there is Mexico,", is a fundamental violation of US sovreignty by claiming that Mexicans in the US are above US law because the Mexican government is sanguine with their crossing the border illegally. It takes pressure off the Mexican government to do anything useful towards fighting the corruption that renders the entire nation the sewer of North American civilization. By that standard alone, illegal immigration is economic terrorism, which makes imposing hardship upon them through anti-terrorism legislation perfectly acceptable. We should be doing more to drive them back south of the border, unfortunately, too many Americans can't handle the sight of blood anymore.

Posted by: James Buchanan | January 27, 2008 9:27 AM

Everytime an American suggests an illegal alien obey the law, the same retort is given, "Well, I have to work." Always the same, the reason for illegal migration, fraudulent identification, driving without insurance, now driving without a license. I think it's been proven many times over that migrants who don't respect American laws enough to immigrate legally will also do whatever they can to "get over" in other ways too. From fraudulent identification, to not marrying the parent of their own children, to selling drugs, illegal aliens are maximizing their incomes with the attitude that American laws don't apply to them.

Posted by: mclovin | January 27, 2008 9:45 AM

And let's not forget taxes. Illegal aliens believe tax laws can also be ignored.

And Americans are supposed to support these people for what? Because some small businessman who wants a bigger house doesn't want to hire an American? Because some corporation can't outsource these particular jobs overseas?

I have not sympathy for either party and hope that immigration laws are more strongly supported. Let Mexico take care of its own, let El Salvador take care of its own, and stop efforts to turn the US into a third world country.

Posted by: mclovin | January 27, 2008 9:48 AM

One thing the Post should explore is the ways that people can immigrate legally and show that most people can't get visas. If the visa system would allow more people to come to do the less than min. wage labor, then this would be a moot issue. But the fact is it is almost impossible to come to "the land of opportunity" without a family sponsor or independent wealth. More people need to understand that.

Posted by: aa | January 27, 2008 9:54 AM

"Gutierrez says O'Malley should have waited to see if the next president scraps Real ID. "The governor is responding to the anti-immigrant voices in the state," she says."

Gutierrez is just a vote-pandering politician, intentionally muddying the distinction between ILLEGAL immigrants and legal immigrants.

The voting, taxpaying public is fed up with the cost of ILLEGAL immigrants. The voting, taxpaying public respects and appreciates legal immigrants. Get it straight Gutierrez!

Posted by: cullisongs | January 27, 2008 10:13 AM

Of course a left winger like Marc Fisher, like Hillary and Bama and Spitzer, want to provide illegals with drivers licenses.

That's 30 million quick new, though fraudulent, voters for their party.

And, how many more 9/11 conspirators have crept across the open border since 9/11 and are now just waiting for drivers licenses and amnesty?

It only takes money and, as they have proven, Coyotes, Federalis, and Philipe Calderon are more than willing to take any amount to sneak someone into the USA.

Posted by: Thom Jefferson | January 27, 2008 11:08 AM

Is it possible the law-abiding LEGAL American citizens are finally fed up with ILLEGAL immigrants and won't take it anymore???

Posted by: Anonymous | January 27, 2008 11:33 AM

Marc Fisher seems to suggest that by rescinding the licenses of a hundred thousand illegal aliens in Maryland, suddenly all of those who were good drivers will become terrible drivers. Yet they'll drive anyway, only without insurance.

Mr Fisher seems to not want us to notice the profound illogic of his position, and he probably thinks himself clever by not mentioning the obvious:

Illegal aliens driving illegally in Maryland with a rescinded or never-issued driving permit will be pulled over if they're bad drivers or break the traffic laws. They will be arrested for driving without a license, and their vehicles will be impounded. They will go to jail, and the vehicles will likely go up for auction with the proceeds going to the State to help fund increased enforcement of traffic regulations and other laws.

Why should Maryland be in the shrinking minority of States that give the air of legitimacy to illegal aliens by giving them drivers permits? As a Marylander, I consider this an endorsement of lawlessness and a shame to the State's reputation, along with the reputation as number one for armed robbery, daytime burglary, and aggravated assault. Governor O'Malley rightly condemned these trends, and made the right decision to make Maryland a civilized State. House Bill 288, now on the table in Annapolis, would accelerate the prohibition on giving licenses to persons illegally present in Maryland, making the effective date for the prohibition October 2008. All Marylanders should contact their Delegate and State Senator to demand the passage, and speedy implementation, of this bill.

Then once it's a done deal, we won't again have to listen to the rantings of a man supporting illegal aliens, the same man who once declared that all DC area Goths should be rounded up and questioned, because some non-Goths in trenchcoats shot up a school in Colorado.

Get with it, Mr Fisher. Support your fellow citizens, not the aliens that unscrupulous employers need to exploit to stay profitable.

Posted by: klaatu1 | January 27, 2008 11:58 AM

Gutierrez is the best d*mn representative an illegal immigrant could have. Now, if you could just get rid of those pesky workplace verifications while your at it, us illegals will be all set. What a country!!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 27, 2008 12:36 PM

While I do not have a position on the driver's license issue, I write simply to respond to some of the comments posted and the use of the word "illegal" to refer to all classes of undocumented immigrants.

In my mind there are two classes of immigrants. The first is the one that includes those truly criminal or "illegal" immigrants that cross the border without visas or authorizations and that have been properly convicted of the crime. The second includes those immigrants that entered lawfully and somehow have lost their immigration status, and are now committing a civil infraction.

As a proud American, I don't think we can freely call all undocumented immigrants "illegal," given that the word "illegal" carries the stigma of and it is used to denote a person's breach of the criminal law, not the civil law - a violation of the criminal law for which most of those undocumented persons have not been formally accused of, tried and convicted of. Since it is a criminal offense to enter the U.S. without a visa or authorization (a misdemeanor), it is up to the Government to prove them criminals and therefore "illegal" immigrants in the courts.

The reason this doesn't happen very often is because the U.S. Constitution affords those undocumented persons the same panoply of rights afforded every American accused of a crime, when one undocumented person is so accused. This includes the right to counsel, the presumption of innocence, and the allocation of the burden of proof on the Government to prove otherwise.

The simple reality is that the U.S. Government does not have the resources to criminally prosecute most of those persons that enter the country in violation of our Federal criminal statutes. It is cheaper and faster to deport those undocumented persons through civil procedures, for the civil infractions associated with the criminal entry.

Therefore, I suggest the proposition that unless we have in our hands a person duly convicted of having crossed the border in violation of our criminal laws, we cannot, as Americans, call them "illegal" and stigmatize them with that criminal brand. That's just too easy of a way to demonize and segregate them without the due process of law - since they are presumed innocent until proven guilty of that criminal offense. Consequently, I suggest that we can only refer to this first group of immigrants as undocumented - unless proven guilty in a Federal court.

Another reason why this proposition is sound, is because the second group of immigrants, those that have lawfully entered the country, but have somehow lost their immigration status may not be necessarily violating a criminal statute, and therefore, may not be called "illegal" either. They may be breaching a civil immigration regulation, but not a criminal law. Consequently, that last group of immigrants are not "illegal" in the sense normally attributed to one violating a criminal law. They are undocumented people committing a civil infraction. Call them over-stays, people without valid visas, or simply undocumented, but not "illegal."

Posted by: Abraham F. Carpio | January 27, 2008 12:59 PM

If we were to consider people who overstayed their visas as somehow less in violation of law than are those who snuck across the border, then we can only expect to see a rise in the numbers of those who come on visa and then don't go back home.

Maryland's HB 288 would simply mean that persons who cannot prove their legal presence in the State of Maryland could not be issued any State-sanctioned form of ID, whether or not a permit to drive.

"Undocumented" people are people who have no acceptable documents. "Illegal aliens" are aliens, foreigners, who have no permission to be legally in the USA, a sovereign nation. "Out of status" is the proper term for persons who have entered legally, and who remained legally until they hit some sort of temporary setback in their immigration process. Such persons most frequently are permitted to remain to pursue correcting their temporary setback as "PRUCOL aliens", "permanently residing under color of law", a term also applied to illegal alien parents of born-here citizen children. Such are rarely deported.

What we need to do as a nation is to examine the question of whether people entered, or remained in good faith. If it's clear that the entry, or the overstay, was furtive or in bad faith, or worst of all with intent to defraud, such people need to be remanded to the proper authority with all deliberate speed.

It's true that we should presume the innocence rather than assume the guilt, but we must also follow a policy of "trust, but verify". If I am confronted with a potential employee who claims to be legally present, but I cannot tell verifiably one way or the other, I should not presume them guilty, but they should have means to prove their innocence. Unfortunately a huge industry has grown up around exploiting the ambiguities and we want the ambiguities removed. We can more intelligently proceed in our business if we have some idea of the status of whom we transact. We may presume the innocence of potential educators, but we still do background checks and credit checks. We need fast and easy ways to determine if someone has a legal right to work here, and a REAL ID Maryland DL would allow us positive presumptive proof of legal presence.

Posted by: klaatu1 | January 27, 2008 2:06 PM

Thinking that a driver's license will ensure that the driver is: (1) more competent that the unlicensed driver, and (2) insured, is simply wrong. What a driver's license has become is a national identity card -- provide it and you have an identity. There are as many bad drivers who are licensed as those who are unlicensed. Having a license is only marginally more likely to ensure you are insured -- scores of people cancel their insurance because it is too expensive to maintain right after they get a license or get it renewed.

It is Fisher who is hysterical, not the President or those who favor the so-called Real-ID. You are blind to the obvious nature of the state driver's license, just as you are blind to the realities in the world today. Add to that your racist nature by declaring everyone who disagrees with you on illegal immigration as either racist or anti-immigrant. What you are is a demagogue who is determined to demonize everyone who disagrees with you. For shame sir, have you no decency?

Posted by: colorado kool aid | January 27, 2008 2:56 PM

"The governor did not keep his promise," Gutierrez says

His promise to whom? Illegal aliens? Well, here is a news flash: he must keep his promises to LEGAL residents of Maryland, and has no obligation of any kind to illegal aliens.

Posted by: Deinara | January 27, 2008 4:04 PM

We have an arrogant, incompetent, illiterate, and inept fool in the White House, a demoralized and decimated military, plundered treasury, trashed world standing, trampled rule of Law and Constitution. While the nation is sinking under debt and the market is in a free fall while an tidal wave of Uneducated Illegal Aliens are waving the Mexican flag, demanding their rights, while sucking at the trough of Public Welfare, as they Kill, Rob, and Rape thousands of American Citizens each year. While most of the Candidates are pandering for the Latino vote by implying or promising Amnesty! Every third world bandito thinks they have the right to cross the border and squat anywhere in the USA and American tax payers should pay their medical & bills educate their children which they pop out Anchor babies like fruit flies.

We as a nation can survive fools in our White House. What we CANNOT survive is fools both in our Congress and white house like Bush, McCain, Hillary, Obama, etc. Each promising a new American, rebuilding the middle class and taking care of the poor. But what they refuse to acknowledge or recognize is no single Nation or people is rich enough to lift the 100,s of millions of poor out of poverty. In others words American & American taxpayers cannot bear the cost of becoming the welfare state for Mexico and Latin American. To attempt to do so will only reduce all Americans to poverty equaling what the uneducated invaders are fleeing from in their home countries. The poor and criminals pouring across our Borders have an average of an six grade education. Each person with less than a high education is a net cost of 20k per year for American taxpayers. So the displaced compassion, flawed logic, or just pandering for votes, endorsed by Edwards, Obama, McCain, Hillary . is deeply flawed. Failure to close our border or to give Amnesty to the 12 to 30 millions of Illegal Aliens in this country will in the long run, with the Chain Immigration result in adding 100 to 160 millions poor citizens to our welfare rolls. Their high school drop out rates exceed 50 percent with a high crime rate and a very high illegitimate birth rate, this is very combination that keeps Mexico & Latin American a cesspool of crime, corruption, poverty & misery!

Maybe the results is what the multinational companies and the rich dream of, a Nation full of poor docile labors like China, India, Mexico, but I do not believe it is the future most Americans aspire to for their children and grand children!

In all, my country, a potential benefactor and beacon for all the world - is headed right off a cliff and to an third world status!

In my view - - this has all come to pass because the Politicians, the elected and sworn stewards of this country, both Republicans & Democrats have allowed it to happen. Surely they should have known better when they build bridges to nowhere, when they wasted 100,s of billion in pork and sold their votes to the highest bidder....when they refused to abide by the Constitution against invasion or enforce the very laws they passed, they have disgraced and dishonored their oath of office and brought shame upon our Nation. One way this Nation can start to recover is for the lot of them to be gone from those hallowed halls of Congress and the White House, because most of them have become a house of party-bound Prostitutes paid by the special interests, swirling and partying, amidst the rubble of their own malfeasance - taking this Nation right down in the gutter with them.

If the Politicians with the Citizens support, decide they must do more for the worlds poor then they must find a way like an Marshall plan for Latin American. What they must not be allowed to do, though flawed logic, false compassion, or by criminal intent is to turn this Nation into a Cesspool of Crime, Corruption, Poverty, and Misery by continuing the open borders policy and Amnesty for the millions of uneducated peons pouring across our borders.

As a proud and concerned American that proudly served my Country in time of War as did my Father, my two brothers and my son. I am appalled and very angry at what self severing, stupid/corrupt politicians have done to my country!

Posted by: joe | January 27, 2008 4:16 PM

McNut,s reasons for Amnesty
McCain's God,s Children Argument!
Then there is they are all God,s children argument(Another McCain favor) well isn't everyone God,s children? If so then guess McCain is saying everyone and anyone has the right to Invade this Nation, waving their flags, demand their rights, while feasting at the trough of public welfare and Kill, Rape and Rob thousands of American citizens each year!

McCain's Lettuce Argument!
There's the "lettuce" argument -- we'll be paying $50/head (or starving)( McCain really likes this argument) if we don't have illegal aliens working in the fields. As Phil Martin, ag economist at UC Davis shows, the field labor cost in a $1 head of lettuce is about 6 cents. Triple those wages and Americans will do the jobs. (They're not career positions. They're seasonal jobs for young people, starting in the world of work. I have did similarly menial jobs.) And you'll be paying 10% more for lettuce and other produce. Do you spend $1,000/year on produce? OK, you'll pay $100 more.

The lettuce argument also parallels that for the retention of slavery.

Immigrant Argument!
There's the "everyone's an immigrant except for the 'Native Americans'" argument. Well, the American Indians didn't sprout from the land, they came across the Bering land bridge from Asia. So if the criterion is "You're an immigrant if you had an ancestor who immigrated here," then American Indians are immigrants, too.

In that case, "immigrant" is no longer a useful word, since Everyone's an immigrant.

Stole Southwest Argument!
There's the "the U.S. stole the southwest" argument. Well, the land in dispute was "owned" by Spain for a couple of centuries. Then by Mexico for about 25 years. During these periods, there weren't more than a few thousand Spaniards or Mexicans in the entire territory. It's been owned by the U.S. for about 160 years now, much longer than Mexico's reign. And the U.S. has actually done something with the land, made it habitable for tens of millions. As Robert Kaplan has described, the difference between American and Mexican "twin cities" straddling the border is like night and day, yet the land is obviously the same. It's not the dirt that's important, it's the people. Put another way, if culture didn't matter, Mexico and Central America would be paradise.

Illegal pay taxes Argument!

There's the "illegal aliens pay tons of taxes" argument. Sure, they all pay real estate taxes (in rent) and sales taxes (most states). Those working on the books (typically using stolen Social Security numbers) pay FICA and, perhaps, income taxes. But they're mostly ill-educated and low-skilled and pay very low taxes connected to their working -- in fact, most claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, i.e. negative income tax! If a family with both parents working has two kids in school, that's at least $15k/year just for schooling, way more than the taxes on, say, $35k/year aggregate income.

Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation has done the systematic accounting on all this. A typical household headed by a low-skilled illegal alien is a net drain of about $20k/year for the rest of us, year after year. (Low-skilled Americans are a similar burden, but they're part of the national family, not gate crashers from other societies.)

Illegal Bad..Amnesty good Argument!

There's the "illegal immigration is bad, but make them citizens and problem solved" argument. Nope. If that were the case, legalizing (i.e. amnestying) the illegal aliens would solve the problem. But they'd still be (on average) low-skilled workers whose burden on the rest of us would continue. In fact, once legal they'd be able to access more public benefits programs, so their cost to the rest of us would actually rise substantially. In short, most of the problems of mass illegal immigration are shared by mass amnestying them.

Finally, I offer my distilled observations of what mass immigration is doing to our country based on living in southern California

The flood of immigrants drives wages and living conditions in our central cities toward those of the Third World.

- The influx imposes both sprawl and gridlock on our metropolitan areas.

- Immigrant families needing services overwhelm our schools, taxpayer-funded health care facilities, and other public agencies.

- Those requiring services don't assimilate and, instead, expect to be served in their native languages.

- American civic culture frays as each ethnic group establishes its own grievance lobby and pushes for preferences.

- Communicable diseases such as tuberculosis (new, drug-resistant strains) return.

- Shortages of water and other resources loom, especially in immigration-blitzed Southwest.
Most that come across our open borders come from countries where, Crime, Corruption, Poverty, Misery, Anti-education, and hate for Americans has existed for centuries and is normal. Should anyone be surprised they bring those same family values across the border with them?

Posted by: bill | January 27, 2008 4:19 PM

I refuse to lose my language, culture, quality of life, borders, real wages, respect for our system of laws, and democracy because the democrats want new hispanic voters to reinforce their aging, bitter, angry, unpatriotic, blame-other- happier-people for their lot in life, loser base.

Posted by: Dick Victory | January 27, 2008 4:27 PM

Maryland should not be in the business of providing fake IDs to undocumented immigrants or anyone else. This sounds like a no brainer to me.

Posted by: afpre | January 27, 2008 5:23 PM

It's like someone opened the looney bin and threw away the key ...

Not a one of you has made a legitimate argument. You're like Don freaking Quixote creating windmills out of every urban legend you've ever heard and then racing to outdo each other in your willingness to tilt at them.

My favorite straw man is the idea that somehow an illegal immigrant with a driver's license can morph into a registered voter. Are you kidding? Are you out of your mind? No one wants immigrants - whether legal or illegal - to vote, unless those immigrants become citizens of the United States. That's the hurdle they have to jump. It's either sheer intellectual laziness to suggest otherwise, or it's an attempt to mislead and misinform the readers of this column. I'm betting on the second.

Posted by: Kate | January 27, 2008 5:58 PM

The idea that illegal aliens never vote in elections is naive, Kate. Why do you think the Real ID act came about? Fraudulent documents have been created and found in every state. Do you honestly believe there are no fraudulent social security cards for sale? You must be joking.

Posted by: mclovin | January 27, 2008 6:28 PM


I don't think that anyone has raised that argument.

The important thing to remember is that Maryland remains among a shrinking minority of jurisdictions that will issue a state-validated ID or DL to anyone who can't prove they are legally in the US. Maryland's DL is the laughingstock of all of those other States, especially sadly as at one time it used to be regarded as one of the most secure and well-supported DL in the country.

Illegal immigration should not be in any way supported by the State of Maryland, or by any official action of any of its agencies.

Considering that Maryland is "the front door to the Nation's Capital", letting it remain one of the States that is concentrating the illegal-alien population, that's outright dangerous to the District and to the government agencies and personnel, and thus to the greater nation. It's like letting the fox in the next yard watch the henhouse in your yard. Mr Fox can just take a short trip and you end up with nothing but a pile of feathers. To state it in a less folksy way, "it is terrible strategy to allow potential adversaries build their camp bordering on your camp". Sun Tzu would agree with that for sure.

Posted by: klaatu1 | January 27, 2008 6:52 PM

"One thing the Post should explore is the ways that people can immigrate legally and show that most people can't get visas. If the visa system would allow more people to come to do the less than min. wage labor, then this would be a moot issue"
A few years back there was a purge of the welfare rolls; remember the 'cadillac driving welfare queen' that Reagan talked about? Let THOSE people do the less than min wage labor. This country has never had a shortage of poor, undereducated people. We do not need to import anymore. We should take care of our citizens; that is what Mexico thinks they're doing by standing up for Mexican illegal immigrants, right?

BTW, illegal immigrants in Virginia learned long ago that they could get a license in Maryland. They can't assimilate or learn the language but they sure do learn how to game the system.

Posted by: frustrated in VA | January 27, 2008 7:58 PM

The "anti-illegal immigrant crowd"? What the hell is that? Something like the "anti-pedophilia crowd"? How about this? If they're going to drive, let's make sure they have a license, and if they're going to carry a gun like we want all "people" who have a constitutional right to do so to be able to, let's make sure we issue them a carry permit. Just how far do you idiots want to carry this thing?

Posted by: Bob Montgomery | January 27, 2008 8:14 PM

This is not only about betrayal. A driver's license documents one's presence in this country, possibly the only documentation of that presence if one is here illegally. Denying a license makes it that much easier for one who is already motivated to avoid notice to do so. It penalizes those who are more or less benign and effectively rewards and abets those who are here with malice.

Posted by: swheelock | January 27, 2008 9:58 PM

20 Million illegals here now is TOO many to deport, but with a guest worker program we can add 20 Million more in 5 years and then what?

Deport 40 Million when they refuse to take up and leave at the end of the program?

This is why America is screwed if the Democratic party and the faction of country club republicans get their way.

Posted by: Dick Victory | January 27, 2008 10:00 PM

Bob Montgomery wrote: The "anti-illegal immigrant crowd"? What the hell is that? Something like the "anti-pedophilia crowd"? Bob, you were on point with your comment. I am not surprised by the liberal progressive Council of the District of Columbia actions on this issue. Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary city to illegal aliens.

Posted by: Dracula | January 27, 2008 10:01 PM

As a registered Democrat, Obama is too far to the left. This is one of the reasons I cannot vote for him. If Obama wasn't so liberal, I could see myself voting for him. I do hope, he will beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He's very liberal on the illegal immigration issue and if elected President, he will bestow amnesty and citizenship on an estimate 20 million illegal aliens. Black Americans should care about this issue, because it will affect them tremendously. Will Hispanics/Latinos (Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Mexicans, Peruvians, Venezuelans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Ecuadorians, Argentineans, Costa Ricans, Brazilians, Nicaraguans, Panamanians, Colombians, Chileans, Dominicans, Bolivians, Paraguayans, Uruguayans, and Spaniards) vote for Senator Barack Obama? I do know, if Senators Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton get elected as President, they will bestow amnesty and citizenship on an estimate 20 million illegal aliens. If this happens, we the citizens will be screwed!

Posted by: Dracula | January 27, 2008 10:15 PM

Despite Barack Obama's current plan to establish a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, I doubt that he will ever be able to overcome the opposition of the American people who are dead set against this ever happening.

Perhaps now that the black community is supporting Obama, the black community will be able to convince Obama, that providing amnesty for illegal immigrants is a very bad idea due to the fact that illegal immigrants are literally taking the food right out of the mouths of blacks.

Providing amnesty to 20 million illegal immigrants is literally doubling the number of working poor here in our United States.

Providing amnesty to 20 million illegal immigrants is almost doubling the number of the uninsured in America.

Illegal immigrants are costing U.S. taxpapyers (you and me) over 150 billion dollars a year. If they are legalized that 150 billion dollar cost will go up substantially.

We need to rid our country of illegal immigrants. Send out the No-Match letters. Penalize employers of illegals harshly. Eliminate all free benefits to illegals. If they can't work and the can't get free benefits, they will have to leave. Fight a war of attrition.

Build the Fence!!

Secure the Border!!

Posted by: Buzzm1 | January 27, 2008 10:44 PM

Marc, you're not going to find much sympathy for illegal aliens in the WashPost forums, which seem to be overrun with zealots looking for a place to vent. I can deal with thoughtfully stated positions but not with the indiscriminate rhetoric some of these people spew. It's no wonder legal immigrants are afraid. Anyway, I supported the reform bill myself and think denying drivers licenses is about as crazy as denying health services -- bad for public safety.

Posted by: webg | January 27, 2008 11:00 PM

VIVA LA RAZA!! Everytime I read xenophobic ignorant zealots, the more I rub in my Hispanic culture. Love to speak Spanish in public and ride my car to the tune of annoyingly loud spanish music. Although I'm hard to miss, haven't seen a goddamn nativist take me to task, such closeted cowards.I love that line of breaking the law, especially those cheap xenophobes who love to buy cheap products and services produced by illegals. Ah, I forgot but Social Security is subsidized by illegals who can't have access to those funds for which they have paid out. VIVA LA RAZA!!!!

Posted by: El Loco | January 27, 2008 11:20 PM

The times are changing in our country.Communities and states are starting to say we do not welcome illegal immigrants.It is not the responsibility of the U.S. to be a dumping off point for the citizens of Mexico and Central America to export their poverty too.As for last years miserable bill which went down in flames only because everyday citizens spoke up to their representatives it was a horrible unenforcebale bill.I read every page and that was a hell of a lot of reading!It was full of loop holes and exceptions.I do not care who is elected president getting any kind of bill like that to pass will be tough going.People are sick of the invasion.My congressman is a conservative Democrat part of the freshman class that was elected in 2006 who ran on strong anti-illegal immigration.Many of the new conservative Democrats in the House will NEVER support the type of legislation like last years bill.

Illegal immigrants some deported numerous times are robbing,murdering,and rapeing U.S. citizens of all nationalities.Now there are bad people in every group but these people should not be in the country in the first place!!!

Posted by: PTN | January 27, 2008 11:35 PM

Some say that this issue is not racist but their wreething at the mouths brings back memories of the racism of the 50s and 60s. Only now, it is being redirected to those who have YET no defense - generally, hispanic undocumented immigrants. These people that they are calling illegals or illegal immigrants or criminals or what have you, made the decision to put their lives at stake to get here to work so they can put food on their table. The void in the labor force that existed and still exists is what drew them here.
This has been taking place for many dacades but it appears that it has increased mostly in the last thirty years and mostly from the south in what appears to be in proportion to the improvement of our economy. These people are filling a void of unskilled labor that most Americans would not want to tackle.
While one starting tactic is to attack the big companies that hire them by the hundreds and argue that it is the big business that profits from them while the rest of us don't get those jobs and if we do they are low paying. That is a smart way to get middle class America, which has no great love for big bussiness, to get on the anti immigrant bandwagon with the logic of : Well if you don't think they are criminals then they are victims, either way undocumented immigration must a bad thing.
The truth is that many medium and small businesses dealing with unskilled labor have very little choice but to hire immigrants who entered this country without a visa. So this new socio-political fixation on attacking undocumented immigrants is not attacking only big business but also thousands of small American family businesses that have evolved in this era and are simply trying to survive. So the knee jerk reaction would be either to gather them up and deport them or criminalize every small business employer that they work for and hope that they will pack-up and go home themselves. There goes the baby along with the bath water. Those who are suggesting this are willing to sacrifice many of their fellow Americans to get what they feel that America should be. America is what it is, now.
Most of those immigrants that are being aimed at are younger and healthier women and men and are here to work. They are not here to get any government benefits. Of the money they make, a lot of it stays here- they need food, shelter, clothing and other every day necessities which are taxed, that means revenue. The rest of their money they send to their countries to support their families and for their future when they return to live when they are no longer able to work. They will not retire here, drawing social security checks and they will not get medicaid, both of which account for one third of what the federal government spends per year. They are not a big drain financially. And they do lubricate the gears of this great economy.
The fact that they send money systematically back to their countries, who are our neighbors, lessens the foreign aid we otherwise would have to send to these these countries. They are from the same hemisphere we're from. We'll need them as our partners one day. We're about 300 million, China is one billion more than us. Those are some of the reasons that the federal government does not see it as a benefit to our interests to pursue their capture and deportation.
Many of those complaining about immigration, keep looking back to how things were and compare them with today. What they need to do is look forward fifty, a hundred or two hundred years form now. You can expect that America's racial makeup to change and only those very naïve will not foresee a dramatic change. The things we can try to retain is great American culture traits such as compassion, benevolence and industriousness.
Furthermore, those who think that we can seal ourselves in our little world with fences, keeping our money in and everybody else out, need to look outside of these borders and see how other countries are uniting for broader economies and how they benefit from it. Trying to seal us from the outside creates a potential difference in standards of living that resembles trying to build and keep a castle in the sand. You can keep spending effort and money in rebuilding but it will eventually be breached. The Americas need to cooperate economically for ALL to prosper and survive.
Sure we need to know who comes and goes. And that's what immigration reform should direct its resources to. Find out who they are, give them residency and a driver's license application, and a social security number so they can pay taxes. Control the borders better so there there will be no more undocumented cases. Those who are here working and contributing should be given the permission to continue to live and work and an opportunity to take more responsibilities toward citizenship.
There are some out there that benefit in the short term from diverting the public's attention from more pressing social and political issues so they use the immigration issue as a red herring. That's why they fill the comments in this blog as a well organized effort to redirect the rage most Americans feel about what WE have allowed to happen to our country's credibility, military might, and economy. Don't fall for it.
And I hope the Washington Post and its readers have the insight to understand that these comment responses are overwhelmingly anti immigration because it is easy to act outraged and condemn this issue with a few words but much more difficult to defend it. But all those immigrants (legal or not) who are being attacked now are part of a growing minority and eventually will catch up socio-economicaly and politicaly and then will lobby to show how this parallels the Japanese-American Internment from sixtyfive years ago.

Posted by: alex | January 27, 2008 11:47 PM

Great post, alex. My sentiments, exactly.

Posted by: RIG | January 28, 2008 1:38 AM

Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907.

'In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag.... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.'
Theodore Roosevelt 1907

Every American citizen needs to read this!

Posted by: Gary | January 28, 2008 7:05 AM

El Loco, people like you are the "RACIST". Please put the pipe down. You and La Raza will never take over this country without a "Civil War" on your hand. Remember, this country is still dominated by whites. Before they let you or anyone take over, they will fight you tooth and nail. This is coming from a black U.S. citizen. I will fight along side of my fellow citizens to protect our country from a foreign invasion.

Posted by: Democrat | January 28, 2008 8:19 AM

Don't want to weigh in on the entire argument, b/c all the points (coherent and otherwise) has pretty much been played out. However, I feel I need to reply to "Abraham F. Carpio", who, in his comments from 12:59pm stated: "I suggest the proposition that unless we have in our hands a person duly convicted of having crossed the border in violation of our criminal laws, we cannot, as Americans, call them "illegal" and stigmatize them with that criminal brand."

Great, so next time I rob a bank, don't call my action "illegal" until I'm convicted, because, under your "innocent until proven guilty" warping of the English language, I might be stigmatized that my actions were labeled "illegal".

what next, "social promotion" to citizenship status? I can see it now: who cares if they flunked the citizenship test, at least they tried really hard.

Posted by: I don't get it... | January 28, 2008 1:41 PM

Shoot, you want a nightmare, try applying for a DL in VA. All but a DNA sample is required; my previous T(exas)DL was of no use; they refused to take my pay stub with my SSN and employer (the U. S. House of Representatives) because it was a "printout and not a stub, and anyone could have done that on a computer." They refused to take a year-old W-2 (the new one hadn't come yet) because "it was old." They refused to take my ID from the House of Reps as a second photo ID because "it wasn't a government or military-issued ID."

At which point I lost it, started screaming, and was invited to leave by security, but managed to calm down after a few choice remarks (such as, "Oh, I'm sorry -- I didn't realize that Virginia had seceded again"). This went on for several trips. Finally, I got them to take my expired passport (with a photo taken, um, more than half my life ago -- I was 12, maybe in that shot), but only after I argued with a supervisor for a half hour about the rules (she said it was invalid because it had expired -- I managed to convince her that it was allowed, since there was no rule that it had to be VALID). Then, there was the argument over my birth certificate. Since I was born in another county in another state, I had a certified copy faxed to me. Which they refused to take because it WAS A FAX. So I had it overnighted, and they initially refused it because the XEROX COPY WASN'T PERFECT (it was a little crooked).

Then I had my wallet stolen. Thankfully, I had my Public Storage unit full of all of the documentation from the first go-round.

Yeah, I'm not still bitter. Enjoy, Maryland!

Posted by: Bob | January 28, 2008 4:01 PM

I don't understand: if allowing illegal aliens to get drivers' licenses is a tenet of right-thinking far-left dogma, why isn't Fisher attacking his home of DC for refusing to go along? Instead, he's ranting about MD. Very strange . . .

Posted by: K-Romulus | January 28, 2008 4:52 PM

K-Romulus, you make an excellent point. The Washington Post has never done an article on the affects of illegal immigration in Washington, D.C. As a District of Columbia resident, the Council of the District of Columiba along with Mayor Fenty are liberal "Socialist" on the issue of illegal immigration.

Posted by: Democrat | January 28, 2008 5:55 PM

Did you hear the quote from Clinton pollster Sergio Bendixon? "The Hispanic voter--and I want to say this very carefully--has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates." Nice. It's fine to say that Hillary is more electable but is now the time to split the factions even further? The Democratic party is a sometimes fragile coalition of various minority groups, and turning them against each other could have effects that last long past this election. Maybe that is just wishful thinking on the part of this Republican but it's something to watch closely. The GOP has been somewhat successful in using the gay marriage issue, for example, as a wedge issue to reduce support for Democrats among religious blacks and hispanics. But that is nothing compared to the damage that an intra-party battle between feminists and blacks could do to the party.

Posted by: Democrat | January 28, 2008 6:33 PM

Democrat--Great response to El Loco! As for you, El Loco--great screen name you picked because you are truly loco en la cabeza. In other words, you are out of your freaking gourd!

I'm half-Hispanic and I can tell you that if it ever comes to a civil-war to defend our country, I won't be on your side. I will be fighting with those who want to save our country. I surely won't be on a racist group like La Raza's side! As for racism, I have experienced it far more from Hispanics than from any other group.

Mr. Fisher--I'm glad that you live someplace where you are sheltered from the effects of illegal immigration. I'm guessing you don't know what it's like to have a flophouse on your street. I'm also guessing that your kids haven't experienced overcrowded classrooms where they don't get enough attention because their teacher has to tend to the non-English speaking kids. You've never had your livelihood effected because illegals have undercut your salary or the company you work for discovered they could hire illegals for a lot less money.

Also, when NY state considered giving illegals licenses, many who were interviewed said they wouldn't get one. Why, you ask? Because it would mean presenting themselves to the DMV and stating, for the record, that they were illegal!

Posted by: half-Hispanic | January 28, 2008 8:26 PM

Mr. Fisher,

FINALLY. You now write your columns with anti-illegal immigrant. Whereas in columns past you said this was about saying NO to immigrants. I'm thinking of your column in 2006 chastizing voters in Loudon county!!

The TRUTH IS MR. FISHER you should have been on the right side of objectivity years ago as a media professional.

This is why it is so hard to have an honest conversation, because of liberal media bias.

Posted by: Dick | January 28, 2008 9:32 PM

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