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8/08/2005

Illegal Hazmat Drivers Caught In Federal Crackdown

Source: Teamsters

A federal crackdown on fraud at state motor vehicle departments across the country has identified dozens of illegal immigrants licensed to transport hazardous materials.

Federal officials admit that while none of those apprehended has any known links to terrorism, they strongly believe that the recent busts have revealed a significant threat to homeland security. In one case, a Pakistani man, ordered to leave the United States nine years ago, was instead driving a tanker truck filled with gasoline for Exxon.

The Justice Department has begun deportation proceedings against the six illegal immigrants in Chicago, who had obtained commercial drivers' licenses that allowed them to carry hazardous materials. The men are from Belize, Jordan, Mexico, Mongolia and the Philippines.

In Florida, 52 people were arrested in late April—including three Florida motor vehicle department employees—for distributing some 2,000 drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants as part of massive fraud ring. Thirty-six of them were hazardous material commercial drivers' licenses, officials said. Some of those arrested had been convicted on weapons or drug charges or for reckless driving.

Many states have strengthened their hazardous materials license screening since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, state laws remain inconsistent, and customs says it remains relatively easy to obtain fraudulent documents that can be used to get a driver's license.

Earlier this year, a new law was signed that requires all driver's license applicants to provide proof of citizenship or legal residency. States have three years to comply with the new law and shore up their licensing processes.

In the meantime, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau continues efforts to investigate driver’s license fraud, particularly as it relates to transportation of hazardous materials.

“We are pleased that these unsafe drivers are off the roads. They are a threat to national security, and they pose a threat to highway safety, which affects all our families,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Teamsters are proud of the fact that our drivers are well-trained, experienced and have made the safety of others a high priority. We believe all drivers should meet the same standards.”

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