N.J. immigrants getting N.C. licenses

Article by By Taft Wireback, News-Record.com, July 20, 2005

Courts in northern New Jersey are having trouble with fraudulent driver's licenses turning up in the hands of illegal immigrants, but they aren't licenses issued by the Garden State.

They are licenses given by North Carolina to illegal immigrants who live in New Jersey but who come to the Tar Heel State by the busload or vanload to get the document that allows them to drive, work, bank and rent housing, said Sonia Barria, the court administrator for the town of Dover, N.J.

"We ask them. We speak Spanish and we ask them, 'How did you get a license?' " Barria said in a phone interview last week. "They say, 'We went on a bus with a group of people and that is how it happened.' "

Her court confiscates North Carolina licenses from illegal immigrants under the theory "they were probably obtained under false pretenses," said Barria, whose town has 15,115 residents and covers 2 square miles in Morris County.

Barria said the problem has not emerged in serious crimes but usually comes to light after an illegal immigrant is stopped for a traffic violation.

"We have destroyed I don't know how many North Carolina licenses," Barria said. "Right now, we have waiting to be destroyed one, two, three ... 17 that have been confiscated over the last couple of months."...

Recently in Greensboro, a federal grand jury indicted a former DMV examiner on charges of issuing 160 fraudulent licenses at the East Market Street office.

An article about the indictment triggered an anonymous e-mail to the News & Record from a resident of Morris County, who complained about the problem in Dover and other courts in that area.

It's hard to determine how far beyond Dover the problem with North Carolina licenses extends, but it's a familiar issue in that section of New Jersey....

A spokeswoman for the New Jersey State Police said she did not know whether there was a statewide problem with illegal immigrants possessing fraudulent North Carolina licenses. But she said a state trooper might not necessarily know that someone he or she stopped on the highway was really a New Jersey resident and not a traveler from North Carolina.

La Sala, the prosecutor, said he also has heard of illegal immigrants going to North Carolina in groups to get fraudulent licenses. Suppliers of fake documents provide them with "whatever documentation they need" he said.

"They will get a van full of immigrants -- eight or nine people or 15 people, depending on the size of the van," La Sala said. "Whatever agency is doing this supplies them with the (counterfeit) utility bills and pay stubs."...

Illegal immigrants with fraudulent North Carolina licenses are charged with misdemeanors such as violating their New Jersey "touring privileges" or providing false documents to a police officer. They face fines that can go as high as $500, La Sala said.

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