Accuracy in Media

Immigration groups are up in arms over proposed legislation that would make driving without a license punishable by jail time in Maryland. The legislation will be introduced by Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) in the General Assembly session that is slated to begin on January 11th.

Simmons released figures that showed that in the fiscal year that ended in June 2002, 19,878 citations were issued. In the fiscal year that ended in June 2005, 30,624 citations were issued which translates to a 54 percent increase. These figures do not include those that were cited for driving with a suspended, expired or revoked license. As if the increase in citations wasn’t bad enough, violators don’t have to appear in court as long as they pay a $315 fine and there is no penalty for multiple offenses so one could continue to drive without a license as long as they pay the fine.

To Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa of Maryland a pro immigrants rights organization this bill is targeted at Latinos and other immigrants who have come to Maryland in increasing numbers over the last few years. Torres told The Washington Post “Regardless of whether they have driver’s licenses, it is how people take their kids to school or go to work. That is the reality.” Is he actually endorsing the idea that it is okay to drive without a license? Does Casa of Maryland tell their clients that if they just pay a fine they can still drive? I don’t know if they do or not, but his comments certainly head in that direction.

Contrary to what Torres thinks Simmons’ bill isn’t aimed directly at his constituency but at all members in the name of public safety. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study showing that 20 percent of fatal crashed involved at least one unlicensed driver. Then there is the economic impact as unlicensed drivers involved in accidents are also uninsured. The foundation report recommends incarceration for repeat offenders, impoundment of the vehicle and removal of license plates at the scene as possible deterrents to this growing problem.

While in general I am not in favor of more laws and regulations to govern our lives I hope that delegate Simmons succeeds in his effort to get this legislation passed. As a member of the majority party in the assembly he stands a reasonable chance of actually seeing this out of committee. The question will be how much political pressure Casa of Maryland and its ilk exert upon the legislature and whether or not they can turn this into a immigration issue rather than the safety issue that it really is.

May my late father forgive me for agreeing with a democrat.




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