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DHS PASSes the Buck on REAL Solutions

September 29, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno

Punt Punt 2


Congressional Quarterly reported yesterday on how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is kicking the REAL ID can down the road – Again.  The REAL ID Act was enacted in May 2005 and it calls for the creation of a national standard for all drivers’ licenses. The card would become the only acceptable form of identification for federal purposes. Critics of the REAL ID Act, including the National Governors Association, 13 state governments, privacy advocates and immigration and civil rights advocates point to the overwhelming logistical, technological and financial burdens of the $4 billion unfunded mandate on the states.  Add to that the negative impact on U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who are among the 11-13 million currently without identification and there is resounding evidence of the need to repeal this law.


The original compliance date was set for May 11, 2008 but DHS continues to extend implementation of this unpopular and unrealistic piece of legislation:


States looking to delay their implementation of the Real ID federal driver’s license standards past the Jan. 1 deadline will have another two months to file their requests, thanks to a rule the Homeland Security Department published Monday.

Homeland Security had set Oct. 11 as the deadline for states to apply for extensions. The new deadline will be Dec. 1. The department estimates that no states are ready to come into full compliance with Real ID, even those that have made substantial progress toward meeting its requirements.


….Since Real ID was enacted in 2005, state governments have assailed it as expensive and invasive. More than a dozen states have actually passed legislation to block implementation.


DHS Secretary Napolitano has been one of the most vocal critics of the REAL ID Act since she was Governor of Arizona. Now, in her new decision-making position at DHS, she is looking for solutions to this ill-crafted legislation.  But Secretary Napolitano might be looking in the wrong place for solutions– the CQ article continues:


Secretary Napolitano believes that PASS ID is the solution to the current stalemate that we find ourselves in under Real ID,” [Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara] Kuban said…

“There are 13 states – over 45 million people – that are statutorily prohibited from participating in Real ID. We need to solve this problem now rather than kick the can down the road with endless extensions. Congress needs to act now.”

DHS Extends REAL ID Deadline Again, September 28, 2009


Advocates have been cautious about measures like the PASS ID Act because of the potential for exclusion of lawful immigrants, naturalized citizens and those properly seeking to adjust their status from being able to obtain government-issued personal or photo identification documents.


For example, under the PASS ID Act, some legal immigrants will be unable to obtain identification and would still encounter similar bureaucratic obstacles that exist under the REAL ID Act. The REAL ID Act left out some categories of lawfully present immigrants such as trafficking victims and other applicants for nonimmigrant visas. Given that immigration law is intricate and changes frequently, keeping up with eligible immigration statuses will prove to be confusing and quite inconsistent across the states.


Moreover, we cannot ignore the problems created when issuance of identification documents or verification of identity relies on flawed state and federal databases.


Let’s be frank, REAL ID was a political ploy to capitalize on the 9-11 tragedy to score political points a few years ago and a) it didn’t work to keep the Republicans in control of Congress and b) has created real costs and problems for states in implementation.


The PASS ID Act will not do away with the real concerns over the REAL ID and immigrant access to licenses.  It will certainly not solve our broken immigration system - only comprehensive immigration reform can do that.

Photo by GregKeene

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