WASHINGTON – In announcing the introduction of legislation aimed at preventing illegal aliens from getting driver’s licenses yesterday, a North Carolina Republican member of the House of Representatives casually dropped a bombshell that went over the heads of most of the media covering the event – that three members of al-Qaida were recently captured trying to enter the U.S.

Rep. Sue Myrick

“This isn’t aimed at any one race,” said Sue Myrick, who is being mentioned as a potential candidate for governor of the state. “Our main concern is: Who’s in our state? This is a critical issue today. They just arrested, down on the border, a couple of weeks ago, three al-Qaida members who came across from Mexico into the United States.”

That’s how she was quoted in her local daily – the Charlotte Observer. An audio recording of the event confirms the quotation’s accuracy.

There was no follow-up by the reporters present.

The capture of al-Qaida operatives trying to gain entry to the U.S. from Mexico or anywhere else would be a spectacular development in the war on terror.

Attempts to reach staffers in Myrick’s office after hours were unsuccessful.

Myrick cited national security concerns in introducing the bill that would withhold states’ federal highway money unless they stop issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Myrick’s bill would target six states, including her own, that still accept taxpayer ID numbers – issued by the Internal Revenue Service – as proof of identity or residence by persons seeking a driver’s license. Besides North Carolina, Myrick’s office said, those states are West Virginia, Illinois, Utah, New Mexico and Kentucky.

Myrick, who is reportedly exploring the possibility of a run for governor in 2008, challenged current Gov. Mike Easley and the Democrats who control the legislature in Raleigh.

“Basically, we’re here to call on the governor (Mike Easley) and the legislature in North Carolina to stop issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens,” said Myrick, who was joined by GOP Reps. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville and Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk – both former members of the N.C. legislature.

North Carolina is home to an estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants, reports the Charlotte Observer. For them, a driver’s license is more than just legal authorization to drive. It’s a government-approved ID, complete with a picture. Flashing this prized possession can make it easier to keep a job, cash a check or find a place to live.

But she denied that she was targeting Hispanics in low-paying jobs, who make up – by far – the biggest percentage of illegal immigrants in the state. She indicated her real concern was national security – pointing to the al-Qaida arrests, which have not been reported elsewhere.

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