August 16, 2006
Ruling on a motion filed by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock, on July 31, suspended proceedings in a case known as Echalar v. Flanagan brought by illegal aliens and their attorneys. IRLI, a Washington, D.C.-based, public interest law group filed the motion on behalf of 9-11 Families for a Secure America.
Fourteen illegal aliens, represented by CASA de Maryland and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), filed suit in 2005 claiming their constitutional rights had been violated when Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) officials declined to accept foreign documents as evidence of eligibility to obtain state driver’s licenses. Shortly after proceedings began, the 9-11 Families sought to intervene in the case, claiming that a legal opinion issued by Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran Jr. failed to represent the interests of citizens of Maryland.
“A well-funded network of advocacy groups have, for years, been using the courts to win expanded rights, benefits and privileges for illegal aliens and to chip away at the distinctions between legal residents of this country and those who are here illegally,” commented Michael Hethmon, executive director of IRLI. “The Echalar case is a clear attempt to weaken identification standards and make it easier for illegal aliens to obtain state-issued ID. Were they to succeed, we believe that the public interest and safety would be severely compromised.”
Judge Murdock’s order means that further legal proceedings on Echalar will be delayed until sometime in 2007. The result of the delay may effectively render the lawsuit moot, as states must comply with provisions of the federal REAL ID Act which mandates changes in the way they issue driver’s licenses.
“Unless Maryland complies with federal law by May 2008, Maryland State driver’s licenses and ID cards will no longer be valid for entry into airports or federal facilities, or for driving in other states,” Hethmon warned. “Clearly the aim of the suit and the opinion issued by Attorney General Curran would significantly harm the interests of citizens and lawful immigrants living in Maryland.”
The challenge brought by IRLI is thought to be the first in the nation to seek enforcement of the REAL ID Act’s ban on licenses for illegal aliens. “This order represents a victory for the legal residents of Maryland,” continued Hethmon. “The Maryland General Assembly will find it very hard to justify continued defiance of federal law when convening next year, especially when that defiance could result in enormous inconvenience to the rest of the law-abiding public. The ruling also represents a growing recognition that the public interest and safety on immigration matters must be taken into account,” Hethmon concluded.
For more information please contact IRLI at 202-232-5590 or by emailing [email protected].
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