It is good to hear that three of the people arrested last July in an alleged New Hampshire driver's license scam have finally been indicted in Rockingham Superior Court.
But the six months it took to move from the arrests to the indictments, combined with the nine months it took nearly 200 agents from 17 law enforcement agencies to bust the alleged conspiracy, is another reminder of how the lax enforcement of immigration laws makes us all vulnerable to terrorists.
Authorities said the three indicted this week, including New Hampshire State Trooper Fred Stamatatos of Pelham, were involved in a scam to provide fraudulent driver's licenses and vehicle inspection stickers to illegal immigrants.
Angie Paola Patrone, 31, of Lawrence, and Adalberto Medina, 39, of Manchester, are accused of paying Donna Rockholt, a clerk at the Salem Department of Motor Vehicles, to issue licenses under false identities. While Medina faces charges in connection with only 11 false identities, authorities have said they believe she issued more than 70 of them before she was arrested. Stamatatos is accused of accepting bribes to provide salvage vehicle inspection stickers without performing the required inspections.
Authorities deserve considerable credit for busting the scam. But the time it has taken, and the number of fraudulent licenses issued illustrate how easy it is for those bent on terrorist acts not only to get into the country, but to become "legal" in a relatively short time.
A driver's license is a powerful tool, accepted as valid identification in just about any transaction. It can be an illegal immigrant's ticket to a whole new identity in the United States.
This case should remind everyone, especially immigration advocates, that is not anti-immigrant to insist that those who wish to come to this country do so legally.
And those in government who enable this kind of law-breaking are not only gaining illegal profits. They are betraying their fellow citizens, putting their lives in danger.