I just can't write it enough times. Last fall, during the election debates, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley looked straight into the camera and flat out lied. It was the biggest whopper I've ever heard a politician tell, and the sheer audacity of it hit me like a wet dish rag across the face.
When asked if you need a social security number to get a license in this state, Easley assured the public that yes, you do need one. Of course, as readers of this column know, what he meant was that you need a social security number to get a license if you have one.
If not, any old, reused Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) bought off the black market will do as long as you have a few recent bills or a blurred Mexican matricula card to go along with it.
Captain John Kanson of the Passaic Police Department in New Jersey deals with the results of Easley's equivocations every day.
About four years ago, he and his officers began noticing North Carolina license plates in driveway after driveway. There were so many that the department actually began tracking them, and after awhile it became apparent that these folks weren't just visiting. Pull them over for a minor traffic infraction, he said, and they'd hand you a North Carolina license. Problem was, they often couldn't describe what North Carolina was like and were stumped when asked what the address on their own license was or what city they had lived in.
It got so bad that someone from New Jersey called the Greensboro News & Record to complain. Since then, say personnel at the Dover, NJ, courthouse, they've been deluged by calls from North Carolina -- from radio stations to politicians -- asking if the incredible tale that Dover law enforcement tells about North Carolina licenses is really true. Unfortunately, it appears it is.
It's tough to get a license in New Jersey. Prosecutors and judges from that state told us that illegal aliens regularly confess to riding down to NC DMV offices in vans, where suppliers provided them with black market fake electric bills and other documents they needed to get licenses.
Often, when arrested for minor crimes or traffic violations in New Jersey, Kanson said, they'd have a North Carolina license on them -- along with other identification identifying them as several other people.
"It's like a weigh station down there," Kanson said of North Carolina. "The proliferation of North Carolina plates has increased dramatically over the last couple of years."
North Carolina is one of nine states that take ITINs in lieu of social security numbers. The tax identification numbers were issued by the IRS so foreign business people who were here legally could use them to pay taxes. They weren't meant to be used as identification, since the identity of those who applied for them was never verified by the IRS.
The Easley administration is well aware of this, because the situation so concerned IRS officials that they sent a well-publicized letter a year and a half ago to the nation's governors, including Easley, asking them to stop accepting ITINs as identification. IRS officials feared those licenses could ultimately be used by terrorists.
Easley and his buddies who run the state ignored them, of course, all the while assuring the people of North Carolina that he and the DMV were committed to homeland security. Last year they even made a big deal out of what a great job they were doing.
They stopped taking matricula cards as a primary form of identification, trained DMV employees to spot fraudulent documents and even started using face-recognition technology to fight fraud. All of that is fine -- and looks great on a press release -- but as long as the state continues taking ITINs in lieu of social security numbers, the other measures are largely a waste of time.
It's estimated that about 88,000 non-Mexican aliens cross the US border every year, about 4,000 of whom come from Middle Eastern countries that are generally hostile to the US. There's no doubt in my mind that some of these people now have licenses thanks to the Easley regime. Those licenses will make it easier for them to board planes, get work in places that would make excellent terrorist targets and generally move about our society undetected.
Mike Easley knows this; he just doesn't care. In fact, back in 2001, one of the governor's staffers inadvertently revealed the governor's real position on cracking down on license fraud.
"If overnight you take all those licenses, it certainly paralyzes some folks' businesses that depend on those workers," H. Nolo Martinez, director of Hispanic/Latino affairs for Gov. Mike Easley, told the Associated Press.
Notice, it's not about illegal aliens being able to feed themselves. No, it's about making sure businesses have access to cheap labor that allows them to flout inconvenient tax and employment laws.
Even as terrorists hit London again and again, Easley continues to cling tight to the precious ITINs that are enriching his campaign contributors. Just hope it's all worth dying for.