JUNE 16, 2009
The Secretary of Homeland Security has helped create legislation to kill a law—passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks—designed to protect the nation by requiring states to verify the identity of driver’s license applicants.
Long committed to disabling the Real ID Act, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has teamed up with a group of bipartisan lawmakers to introduce a bill that will repeal key aspects (recommended by the 9/11 Commission) of the measure, which requires states to verify the authenticity of every driver’s license applicant by 2011.
Under the law passed by Congress in 2005 the crucial verification process forces states to require that documents, such as a birth certificate or passport, submitted to get the card are legitimate and that the applicant is in the United States legally. This will establish a much-needed standardized national driver’s license system that will be less prone to fraud and will prevent terrorists from abusing it as did several of the September 11 hijackers.
It also calls for a newly created federal database to link all licensing data that must be checked before states issue new cards. Residents of states that don’t comply with the Real ID Act will be greatly inconvenienced because their driver’s licenses will not be accepted as proof of identification at airports, federal buildings or when applying for any sort of federal benefits.
Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, has long worked to kill the Real ID Act, alleging along with a chorus of lawmakers that it violates civil liberties and privacy. With her guidance, a group of bipartisan lawmakers drafted a drastically weakened version of the measure (called Pass ID Act) to replace key provisions.
The Pass ID Act will eliminate the Real ID Act’s two crucial security features (identity verification and document authentication), will push the compliance deadline up to 2021 and allow states to receive additional extensions by filing a justification of noncompliance. The bill was introduced in the Senate this week by Hawaii Democrat Daniel Alaska and Ohio Republican George Voinovich.
A variety of states have vowed to pass bills ordering its officials to ignore the Real ID Act, which must be fully implemented by 2013. Maine, Georgia, Montana, New Mexico, Washington and Wyoming are among them. Earlier this month California legislators announced they will implement a law (California Real ID) to give special driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who won’t meet the security standards under the Real ID Act.
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