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Licensed to Kill

Last week, Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed, “America will not allow terrorists to use our hospitality as a weapon against us.”  But despite his tough talk, Ashcroft’s boldest proposal was the establishment of a task force – no doubt aspiring terrorists are trembling now – charged with denying entry to affiliates of 46 designated terror groups.  “Oh, is that an official al Qaeda membership badge you’re wearing?  I’m afraid you’ll have to attend flight school elsewhere…”

Every year, 50 million cross our borders without background checks or entry and exit monitoring.  Of the 31 million required to obtain visas, 40% overstay, many permanently.  And we make it so easy.  In North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia any resident able to pass a driving test (available in your language of choice) can obtain a driver’s license regardless of immigration status.  Illinois, New Mexico, and Minnesota are considering similar measures. California, home to 2 million illegal immigrants, is somewhat confused.  In September, the Assembly approved a bill to grant licenses to illegals, then the parliamentarian pulled it from Gov. Gray Davis’ desk after the terror attacks caused the bill’s chief sponsor to reconsider the initiative. The Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund claims that since the bill was neither signed nor vetoed within 30 days of passage, it will have force of law come Jan. 1. 

Advocates of licensing illegals – chief among them, no surprise, auto insurers hungry for new premiums – argue highway safety rather than border security.  But this card is more than a license to drive.  It confers a sense of identity, legitimacy, and de facto citizenship.  We use our drivers’ licenses to vote, validate employment, and yes, even board planes.

This week, Human Events uses FBI affidavits to track the terrorists’ final days through the back channels of Northern Virginia, to the Department of Motor Vehicles, on to the boarding gates.  In August, hijackers Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar met Luis Alonso Martinez-Flores, a 28-year-old Salvadorian at Virginia convenience store where Latino immigrants wait for day labor.  For $100, Martinez, who has lived in the U.S. illegally since 1994, took the terrorists to the “DMV Express,” a Virginia licensing bureau in a nearby mall, where Hanjour and Almihdhar presented passports, legal visas, and DL51 forms establishing legal residence as certified by illegal alien Martinez.  They used an old address of Martinez’s as their own and were licensed with the ease of native-born citizens. 

The next day, the pair of terrorists put their new IDs to work, bringing two more of bin Laden’s lieutenants to the DMV.  This time, they certified the DL51s themselves and received ID cards within minutes, again using Martinez’s phony address.  The same day, three more terrorists found a Falls Church attorney willing to notarize the documents that made Ahmed Alghamdi, aboard Flight 175, and Abdul Alomari, hijacker on Flight 11 both eligible for IDs at the Arlington DMV.  In total, Virginia DMVs gave identity documents to seven of the terrorists, and with them, permission to board our planes.   Since Sept. 11,  anyone who presents a passport, visa, and utility bill or bank statement can still do the same.

Such is the frailty of our system – and the inadequacy of our government’s response.  Those who enter and live here in violation of our laws are afforded a privilege denied citizens who transgress speed limits.  With it comes permission to work, apply for credit, and participate in the routine business of the country whose border they disregarded.

As for those who enter on legal visas and then line up at the DMV, they should have no use for this quasi-citizenship.  Their native passports would suffice for proof of identity.  Yet we confer the accessories of residency on those who claim only to be passing through, clearing the way for the four in ten who remain here after their visas expire.

“Never did we realize then that people would take advantage of our generosity to the extent they have,” Mr. Bush said after Sept. 11.  Now we know – and still do nothing.  Denying American identity documents to the 11 million illegals among us is an obvious first step.  Refusing them to transient visa holders is the clear corollary.  Now.  Today.  Before thousands more line up to receive licenses to drive and, quite possibly, licenses to kill.  

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