Uniform requirements are needed for licenses and IDs, officials say.
& lt;a href=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org & gt;By PATRICIA MEADE & lt;/a & gt;
and DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's not difficult to assume someone else's identity to pass for being 21 years old or a United States citizen, according to those who want the laws changed.
The common denominator for underage kids who want to buy beer and illegal aliens who want to establish citizenship is Ohio identification cards.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles issues the cards over the counter to nondrivers who provide a birth certificate and Social Security card.
That could change under a bill being drafted by state Sen. Robert F. Hagan with the assistance of Youngstown Detective Sgt. Jose Morales.
"The possibility exists that you could have terrorists coming in and getting an Ohio ID card," said Hagan, of Youngstown, D-33rd. "We need to strengthen the law. We have a major hole in the state identification card and driver's license system. Ohio has a hole that you could drive a refrigerated truck full of illegal aliens through."
Boardman Patrolman-Detective Kim Kotheimer told The Vindicator about his own experience with Ohio ID cards:
Twice around Christmastime, two different carry-out clerks at Gino's Drive-Thru on South Avenue in Boardman confiscated Ohio ID cards being used by young men suspected of being under 21. They didn't look much like the photo on the IDs.
"What really got my attention," Kotheimer said, "was that the individual pictured on the ID was the same in both incidents. My investigation revealed that the BMV has no limit on the issuance of these IDs to any person claiming their ID was lost or stolen."
Kotheimer suspects the 22-year-old Boardman man pictured on the IDs is selling them to underage kids.
The man has reported his card lost at least five times in the past year and received new IDs each time, Kotheimer said.
"Not a lot of times, but something's up," the officer said. "There should be a limit on the number of cards reissued and a procedure to verify" each loss.
Outside the realm of local law enforcement, Kotheimer said, is the idea that illegal aliens can easily obtain Ohio IDs.
An investigation by Morales revealed that three Guatemalans and one Mexican bought Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards and used them last month to fraudulently obtain Ohio IDs at West Side Merchants on Mahoning Avenue. They have since been convicted of forgery and agreed to be deported.
Morales said the men came here because it's easier to get an ID card than in Delaware, which requires two proofs of residency. The men intended to turn in their Ohio IDs to get Delaware IDs so they could work at a Perdue chicken plant, the detective said.
Morales and Kotheimer said they wonder how many illegal aliens succeed in getting IDs without being caught.
Morales said he'd like to see proof of an applicant's residency, the name of a reference to verify residency, a waiting period before an ID is issued and a fingerprint taken.
"With homeland security, we've got to get strict," Morales said. "Anybody can be bought -- if money is right people will do anything."
Lobbying for uniformity
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is pushing for uniformity among the 50 states as to what should be required for a person to get a driver's license or state ID card, said Tom Wolfsohn, the agency's senior vice president of governmental affairs and communications.
"The documents needed to obtain driver's licenses and state ID cards are all over the board in this country," he said. "In some states, there is the choice of 25 documents you can show including an electric bill. We'd like to reduce that down to a short list."
Also, the agency, which represents motor vehicle administrators in the United States and Canada, is asking Congress to spend about $78 million for a national motorist verification system, Wolfsohn said. The system would link state motor vehicle agencies -- allowing each to check driving records and other documentation used by people wanting to get licenses and state ID cards, he said.
Hagan said his bill would end the practice of giving Ohio ID cards on demand. Instead, the state would run background checks on people seeking the cards under his bill.
"We need to move slower in giving people the chance to obtaining ID cards," he said. "If people see that it's easily done, they'll come here to get Ohio ID cards. It's dangerous the way the state issues them now."
Hagan and state Rep. John Boccieri of New Middletown, D-61st, say a change to the system is long overdue, particularly in light of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"The individuals who hijacked planes on Sept. 11 had fake documentation," although not from Ohio, said Boccieri, a U.S. Air Force reservist and House assistant minority whip. "Ask a college student how easy it is to get a fake ID. I'd hate for the next terrorist attack to happen by people who got fake IDs from Ohio."
State Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, supports Hagan's proposal, saying it is just too easy to obtain Ohio ID cards.
"With the terrorism threat level up so high, we need to do everything in our power to lessen the threat," said Dann, an attorney. "It's appropriate to toughen the laws on ID cards. Social Security cards, birth certificates and Ohio ID cards are pretty easy to get. I think it's a real problem."
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