Massachusetts is one of just five states that does not check whether someone applying for a driver's license is a legal resident, despite a federal law requiring that verification be in place by January, a FOX Undercover investigation has found.
"Massachusetts does not check legal status on drivers licenses the way most of the country does," said Janice Kephart with the Center for Immigration Studies. "So if they are not (checking), then yes, they become a magnet. Massachusetts becomes a magnet for illegal aliens."
The immigration check is a requirement of the REAL ID Act, which was created at the recommendation of the 9-11 Commission, which investigated the terror attack. Kephart was a staff member of the commission.
"We know that 9 of 26 of the hijackers got their licenses fraudulently. Therefore and then we looked across the board at the rest of the states and saw that all the states were not verifying identity. So we made recommendations that the federal government provide minimum standards across the board," she said.
The REAL ID ACT took effect in 2004. It gives states until January 2013 to comply.
Kephart surveyed states earlier this year to see where they stand. Her research found that Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Washington and Massachusetts are the only states not checking legal status of license applicants.
"Massachusetts is not in sync with the rest of the states. Therefore, because they are falling out of sync, they're not verifying that people are who say they are, and that is where the fraud comes into the system," Kephart told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
"How difficult would it be for Massachusetts to check the legal status of people applying for drivers licenses if the state wanted to do it?" Beaudet asked.
"It's extremely easy. All they have to do, all Massachusetts has to do to cut out much of this fraud is to verify legal status. Is that hard to do anymore? Absolutely not. There's a federal database called SAVE that will provide all that information in seconds," Kephart replied.
SAVE is short for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements. It's run by the US Department of Homeland Security and allows access to more than 100 million immigration related records.
Because Massachusetts is not getting that information now, Kephart says the state has become an attractive destination for illegal aliens.
"Because they're still working through smugglers and counterfeiters as they are here because, because they are not here legally they have to assimilate themselves and they have to do it in an illegal, fraudulent manner. So they still work with smugglers to direct them as to where to go to get that drivers license. Wherever the least amount of identity is checked that is where they will go. So Massachusetts has become a magnet as other states have tightened up their issuance process," Kephart said.
FOX Undercover asked a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation why the state was not so far conducting the legal status checks and whether it intended to do so. The spokesman responded with a statement that did not address those questions, except to say the Patrick administration was reviewing the federal law.
One consequence for not meeting the January deadline, according to Kephart, is that no Massachusetts residents will be able to use their driver's license as a form of ID needed to board a plane. You'll need your passport, instead.