CMD superman logo.jpg SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy,

depends on donations from people like you!

Click here to make a tax-deductable contribution.

REAL ID Act of 2005

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search
This is an article about a piece of legislation that has not been flagged by our editors, and needs review.

The REAL ID Act of 2005 was a bill that set federal standards for U.S. state drivers' licenses and identification cards, barring federal agencies from accepting state IDs and licenses that do not comply with the Act. It was introduced and passed by the House in 2005 (during the 109th Congress), and later approved by both the House and Senate as part of a larger appropriations bill. To comply with the Act, states would have to adjust the documentation that they accept for issuing drivers' licenses and IDs, including verifying lawful presence in the country. They would also have to maintain databases of driver information, including copies of the documentation submitted by state residents, and make that information available nationwide.

The REAL ID Act has been criticized by many organizations, including the Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union. They argue that the national ID created by the REAL ID Act would not add significantly to the country's protections against terrorism but, by placing sensitive information in nationally accessible government databases, it would invade Americans' privacy and expose them to Identity theft.

Current status

The Real ID Act of 2005 was approved by both the House and Senate as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (H.R.1268) and signed into law on May 11, 2005 by President George W. Bush.[1]

<USbillinfo congress="109" bill="H.R.1268" />

It now awaits implementation by individual states. In the face of widespread opposition to the act by state governments, the deadline for implementation was pushed back to the end of 2009.[2]

Bill summary

The REAL ID Act of 2005, sponsored by James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) with 140 co-sponsors[3], was introduced on January 26, 2005, "To establish and rapidly implement regulations for State driver's license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence." The act required state IDs to include a minimum of the person's full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, and driver's license or identification card number. It was required to have physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes and use common machine-readable technology with defined minimum data elements.[4]

More specifically, the bill made it so:

  • The Department of Homeland Security would be responsible for setting the ID standards. Driver’s licenses and personal ID cards would be required to include the cardholder’s legal name, date of birth, address, gender, signature, card number, digital photograph, physical security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication and common machine readable technology with defined minimum data elements.
  • The state motor vehicle administrators would be required to verify the validity of at least four feeder documents, such as a Social Security card or passport, before issuing driver’s licenses or personal ID cards. These four documents would be:
  1. A photo identity document, except that a non-photo identity document is acceptable if it includes both the person's full legal name and date of birth.
  2. Documentation showing the person's date of birth.
  3. Proof of the person's social security account number or verification that the person is not eligible for a social security account number.
  4. Documentation showing the person's name and address of principal residence.[5]
  • By Sept. 11, 2007, states would have to sign a memorandum of understanding with DHS to use the automated Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system to verify the legal presence of a driver's license applicant who is not a U.S. citizen. States would be required to capture digital images of applicants and electronically exchange driver histories with other states.[6]
  • Federal agencies would not be able to accept a driver’s license or any other state-issued card for identification purposes after May 11, 2008, unless the state met the requirements of the Act. This meant that if a state failed to comply with the Act, members of that state would no longer use their driver's license as an ID for travel.[7]
  • State IDs would require evidence of the legal right to be in the country. It would require states to issue temporary cards to anyone temporarily in the country.[8]
  • DMVs would be required to capture digital copies of source documents and retain paper copies for seven years, and images for ten years. DMVs would no longer accept foreign documents other than passports. Each person applying for a driver's license or identification would also be subject to "mandatory facial image capture."[9]
  • DMVs would verify "with the issuing agency, the issuance, validity, and completeness of each document" presented.[10]
  • States would be required to "[e]stablish fraudulent document recognition training programs for appropriate employees engaged in the issuance of drivers' licenses and identification cards."[11]
  • State DMVs would be required to confirm Social Security numbers with the Social Security Administration. In the event a Social Security number is already associated with another license or identification card, the state would "resolve the discrepancy."[12]

Consideration

House

On February 10, 2005, the House passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 in a vote of 261-161.

<USvoteinfo year="2005" chamber="house" rollcall="31" />

The bill had the support of nearly all House Republicans. Republican Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.)was one of the few Republican House members who opssed the bill. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) argued in favor of the REAL ID Act, pointing out the dangers that arise from the use of Social Security numbers and less restrictive state IDs for purposes of security identification. She said,

"Just last week, my district saw the unfortunate confluence of illegal immigration, Social Security fraud and potential terrorist threats meeting together."

"In my hometown of Crystal River, Florida, the nuclear power plant was found to have contracted with illegal immigrant day laborers through a contract who had used fake or stolen ID and Social Security numbers to obtain government-issued driver's licenses. Thankfully, these men have been arrested by the FBI and fully interviewed by Customs enforcement agents. Who is to say that the seemingly harmless workers could not have really been agents of a terrorist group that is intent on blowing up or hijacking a nuclear power plant?"[13]

Though the bill passed, the act was then attached to an Iraq war spending bill before it went to the Senate. The bill, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (H.R.1268), passed the House in a vote of 388 to 43 on March 16, 2005.

<USvoteinfo year="2005" chamber="house" rollcall="77" />

Senate

The Senate never took a vote on the REAL ID Act of 2005, but instead voted on the new bill it was attached to, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (H.R.1268). This bill passed unanimously, 100-0, in the Senate on May 10, 2005.

Opponents to the bill argued that their voices were stifled "because lawmakers slipped the bill into a larger piece of legislation -- an $82 billion spending bill -- that authorizes funds for the Iraq war and tsunami relief, among other things, and is considered a must-pass piece of legislation." Though there was opportunity to debate the bill, opponents argued, there was no opportunity for senators to oppose it by vote.[14]

May 10, 2005
Passed, 100-0, view details
Dem: 44-0 in favor, GOP: 55-0 in favor, Ind: 1-0 in favor

[15]

The act faced some criticism by senators. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) joined Democrats and state officials in criticizing the driver's license rules, which he said would create national identification cards and leave state governments with the the responsibility for paying for them.[16]

He stated, "It is possible that some Governor may look at this and say: Wait a minute, who are these people in Washington telling us what to do with our driver's licenses and making us pay for them, too?"[17]

Criticisms and commendations

Jim Harper of the Cato Institute commented that while the added security requirements of the REAL ID Act may prove stifling for law-abiding citizens, they would do little in the way of curbing illegal immigration and even less in the way of stopping terrorism. Harper argued that because terrorists rarely seek the benefits of American society and because they do not worry about being held accountable for their acts, a terrorist would have no need to use an identity card or fear being identified if they did.[18]

Harper also warned of the historic cases where identification cards were used to infringe on the civil rights of a country's populace. National identification systems, he argues, have allowed governments to prey on their people. He stated:

"This is concerning not just because of privacy — the fact that people's lives are more exposed to governments and corporations than ever before. It is also a threat to liberty...Historically, oppressive governments have used identification time and time again to administer evil acts. Well known historical examples include Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Modern genocides like Rwanda's were facilitated by an identification card system. Uniform and centralized identification systems provide no failsafe in the event a democracy fails, or fails to protect liberty. A diverse identification system is more difficult to navigate. This makes it a bulwark of liberty."[19]

Harper also pointed out the enormous financial cost of compliance. The Cato Institute provided cost estimates for states to comply with the REAL ID Act, citing a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures that said it would cost $9 billion nationwide for states to implement the act, though some other estimates went as high as $17 billion.[20]

Tim Sparapani, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ACLU would seek out legal options to counter some of the Real ID Act's provisions. He argued that the bill's passage was "an enormous blow to every American's personal privacy" because it would create a national database and a national ID card, allowing every state to collect and share information.[21]

He stated "Proponents of the bill are in full spin mode when they say it's just the states who are collecting the information...Even if the data is technically on a computer system in one location, if all the computers are interlinked, then there's a mandate to share information. That's a network. And that network is the backbone of this national identification card especially when there are no restrictions on who may access it. And the federal government has full rights of access here."[22]

Following passage of the Act, several states threatened lawsuits and disobedience.[23] In some states, legislation was proposed to issue separate IDs for people who may not want to carry an ID regulated by the REAL ID Act. In California, a bill designed to comply with Real ID while providing drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants was offered.[24] On July 15, 2006, it was reported that a state panel had begun efforts to improve security of driver’s licenses and identification cards in order to try to comply with the act, but was unable to because the federal government had yet to clarify the regulations required in the new IDs.[25]

Implementation problems

Deadline delayed

In what the Cato Institute referred to as a "golden handcuffs" opportunity, the Department of Homeland Security pushed the deadline for compliance back while attempting to assure support for the bill.[26]In a March 1, 2007 speech by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, he extended the May 11, 2008 deadline for state compliance with the REAL ID Act to the end of 2009. In the face of resistance to the regulations from many states such as Maine, Idaho, and Alaska, it became clear that it would be increasingly difficult for the REAL ID requirements to be met by its original deadline. Chertoff explained,

"Well, the law required a May 11, 2008 deadline, and there were already a number of states that are making progress to getting Real ID compliant, states as big as California and smaller states like Alabama and North Dakota. And I want to commend these states for their efforts to make the benefits of Real ID a reality for their citizens."

"But, we also know, because we’ve had a lot of extensive consultation in preparing this rule, whether it be with motor vehicle officials or governors or members of congress, we know that a number of states are going to have difficulty meeting the deadline. And in part that’s due to the fact that this rule has taken quite a bit of time to get out. And there is a provision in the statute that does allow us to grant extensions if states have a justification for the request."

"Therefore, based on that provision, I’m announcing today that states may seek justifiable extensions and obviously they have to prepare, ultimately, prepare a plan for compliance. And, those extensions will give the states that request through December 31, 2009 to come into compliance."[27]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

Sources

  1. THOMAS page on H.R.1268. THOMAS.
  2. Remarks By Secretary Chertoff At A Press Conference On REAL ID. Department of Homeland Security. March 1, 2007.
  3. THOMAS page on H.R. 418 Cosponsors. THOMAS.
  4. THOMAS page on H.R. 418. THOMAS.
  5. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  6. Dibya Sarkar, Real ID zips through Congress. FCW. May 11, 2005.
  7. Smart Card Technology: Texas Instruments Supports Smart Card Alliance Position On The REAL ID Act. Data Collection Online. July 26, 2006.
  8. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  9. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  10. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  11. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  12. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  13. GovTrack page on H.R. 1268 floor debate. GovTrack. March 15, 2005.
  14. Kim Zetter. No Real Debate for Real ID. Wired. May 10, 2005.
  15. THOMAS page on H.R. 1268. THOMAS.
  16. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - Real ID Act. Lamar Alexander Senate website. May 10th, 2005.
  17. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - Real ID Act. Lamar Alexander Senate website. May 10th, 2005.
  18. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  19. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  20. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  21. Dibya Sarkar, Real ID zips through Congress. FCW. May 11, 2005.
  22. Dibya Sarkar, Real ID zips through Congress. FCW. May 11, 2005.
  23. Jennifer & Peter Wipf. Real ID Act Faces Opposition. About.com. May 10, 2005.
  24. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  25. Tim McGlone. Lack of information stymies ID plans. The Virginian-Pilot. July 15, 2006.
  26. Jim Harper. A Primer on the REAL ID Act: Will the U.S. Have a National ID Card?. The Cato Institute. March 30, 2007.
  27. Remarks By Secretary Chertoff At A Press Conference On REAL ID. Department of Homeland Security. March 1, 2007.

External resources

Wikipedia also has an article on REAL ID Act of 2005. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

External articles