This article about Maryland's plan to comply with the federal Real ID act by creating a two-tier driver's license system did not make it clear that Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has not yet signed off on the plan.
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State Officials Propose 2 Types of Driver's Licenses
Guti¿rrez and Casa de Maryland, which helps immigrants find jobs and housing, are pushing a different system that would keep the current license but offer legal residents a federally valid identification card similar to a passport.
"We think the best system is to retain the license," said Kim Propeack, Casa's advocacy director. "We believe the vast majority of people will want to keep the system the way it is." She said many Maryland residents, such as older drivers and ex-felons, regardless of their immigration status, would be unable to comply with federal requirements or have little need to enter federal buildings.
Opponents of illegal immigration have fought unsuccessfully for Maryland to adopt a federally recognized driver's license since the Real ID law was passed in 2005. Last week, some said the O'Malley administration would do little more than elevate the status of undocumented immigrants by awarding them a special license.
"They're following the letter of the law, but they're ignoring the intent," said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick). "The state is endorsing people to skirt the law. . . . Then Maryland becomes a haven for people that are here illegally."
Civil rights organizations and privacy advocates say that they are concerned that a standardized driver's license would amount to a national identification card and that a database with holders' information would be vulnerable to identify theft.
John T. Kuo, head of the state Motor Vehicle Administration, said his agency does not keep statistics on how many of Maryland's 3.9 million licensed drivers are not in the United States legally because state law does not require it to document immigration status.
"Our staff does not ask if someone is here legally, because that would be discriminatory," he said. However, as other states, including Virginia, have tightened the documentation required for a driver's license, Maryland has had a "surge in demand" for licenses from foreign-born residents, Kuo said.
About 2,000 foreign-born residents make appointments each week to present documents including foreign passports and marriage or divorce papers to get their driver's licenses. About 500,000 Maryland residents who do not drive have state identification cards.
Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico and Washington state do not require legal presence in the country to get a driver's license, although Oregon and Michigan are moving to require it.
Porcari said Maryland is the first state to propose a comprehensive two-tier system.