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Make border rules work Well-designed enhanced license system could meet objections, ease crossings

There's a reason they call it an "enhanced" driver's license. It would be different from the regular state-issued card that establishes little more than that the bearer knows road rules, can see well enough to operate a motor vehicle and hasn't yet had enough moving violations to justify its confiscation.

The creation of another class of license, the electronically juiced version being developed by the state of Washington and perhaps to be copied by New York, would add another purpose to the ubiquitous wallet stuffer. It would establish not only the ability to drive a car, but the right to drive it into the United States.

Not everyone who would qualify for the normal kind of license would necessarily be eligible for the enhanced variety. Nor would they all want one. It would cost more. You would have to produce proof of citizenship to get one. And it would carry some form of electronic, counterfeit-resistant ID tag that not everyone would feel comfortable carrying, especially if they have no plans to go to Canada.

Even if Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer follows through with plans to make illegal aliens eligible for regular driver's licenses -- so they can work and be less of a burden on the rest of society -- the Department of Homeland Security should not use that as an excuse to deny use of enhanced licenses in lieu of passports for land border crossings.

Rather that urge Spitzer to back off on his plans, as Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds did recently, the Clarence Republican should use whatever influence he has with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to keep the issues separate.

Different classes of licenses, for drivers, pilots and plumbers, are routine. The technology to create one license that establishes the ability to drive a semi-trailer truck and another that vouches for citizenship exists. It should be used.

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