A debate on the Senate floor about a bill that would require proof of legal presence before receiving a state driver’s license degenerated into a heated argument over U.S. immigration policy Thursday.
The Senate passed the bill earlier this month, but needed to hold a procedural vote in order to force the issue into a conference committee with the House. The House bill differs from the Senate bill because it would allow immigrants who already have licenses to renew them without the added documentation.
During the debate, Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford, suggested that previous generations of immigrants were fundamentally different from the immigrants of today.
“Our forefathers dropped to their knees and thanked God when their boats landed at Ellis Island,” Jacobs said. “Now, in , there is a new type of immigrant. They want all of this country’s benefits, but they don’t want to play by the same rules.”
On the other side, Sen. David C. Harrington, D-Prince George’s, argued that immigration policy regarding political asylum was slanted to allow refugees from Eastern Europe, but not from countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador.
“This bill raises the specter of hypocrisy,” Harrington said. “When people from Eastern Europe came, we found a way.”
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, tried to put the debate into historical perspective, noting that the country’s immigration policies have never been perfect, from having quotas for Irish and Italian immigrants to turning away boats full of Jewish refugees during World War II.
Miller said Wednesday that a compromise between the House and Senate was unlikely, and that one of the chambers would have to back down in conference committee for the bill to be signed into law.
“It’s either you’re lawfully present and entitled to a driver’s license, or you keep the present system, which is allowing illegals to have driver’s licenses,” Miller said.
–By Capital News Service’s Erich Wagner