Washington In a move backed by the president but opposed by the nation's governors, the House voted Thursday along mostly partisan lines to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses.
"I think the American public realizes better standards for driver's licenses and some changes in our immigration law are vitally important to border and national security," House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., said of his measure, which also changes asylum and deportation rules and eases the way for completion of a border fence in California.
Opponents included an array of groups that say the measure is anti-immigrant, unworkable or a costly imposition on the states.
"It is too broad, goes too far and slams the doors of hope and safe haven on refugees," said Maryland's Steny Hoyer, House Democratic whip.
The bill passed 261-161. All but eight Republicans supported it. While most Democrats opposed it, 42 of them voted yes on the measure.
Ten states now permit undocumented aliens to get driver's licenses. Kansas is not among them.
Under the proposal, those states would have to require proof from would-be drivers that they are in the United States legally, or the driver's licenses they issue would not be considered valid ID at airports and federal buildings.
Invoking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, supporters said the ability of illegal aliens to get a driver's license in some states was an opening for terrorists to use the documents to board airplanes or build a fraudulent identity in this country.