Making it illegal for illegals to drive

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Maine is one of eight states where an illegal alien can obtain a driver’s license. And that’s a national security loophole big enough to fly an airliner through.

Tuesday, the Maine House of Representatives killed a common-sense proposal that would have required people seeking drivers’ licenses to prove they are here legally.

In lieu of a national ID card, the licenses issued by states have become a flawed alternative.

A driver’s license is usually required for cashing a check, renting a car or truck and, of course, for passing through security at airports. It’s a must for a would-be terrorist trying to board an airliner, rent a truck or cash a check.

“The whole premise of this legislation was to prevent a potential terrorist from getting a Maine driver’s license,” said Rep. Ronald Collins, R-Wells.

The bill’s opponents said it would turn employees of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles into immigration officers and could result in even longer waits at bureau offices.

The first objection is nonsense. Employees would not be required to arrest anyone who failed to qualify for a license, just to not hand them one.

The second objection, that it could result in long waits for bureau customers, is probably true, but it shouldn’t be.

If 42 other states can do this, we’re sure officials here can, too. It’s sad to think that four years after 9/11 there’s no easy way to tell whether a person belongs here or not.

But regardless of Tuesday’s vote, a new federal law, the Real ID Act, will require Maine to do the same thing by 2008. The proposal voted down in Maine would simply have closed the loophole two years sooner.

Last week, we suggested that the best way to regain control of our borders would be with national ID cards. Last week, a poll issued by the Pew Research Center found that many Americans agree.

Only 9 percent of those questioned thought building more fences would work and 33 percent thought hiring more border patrol agents would be effective. But 49 percent felt that penalizing employers who hire undocumented workers was the surest way of slowing illegal immigration.

But, of course, employers need an easy way to determine who can work and who cannot, like a national ID card.

Instead, in 2008, seven years after 9/11, we will still have a crazy patchwork of different cards issued by 50 different states.

It’s a solution, but it isn’t the best one.

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