In response to a question at a conference of the Anti-Defamation League, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she plans to work with governors to repeal the REAL ID Act, which was passed in 2005. The Act has specific identification requirements for driver’s licenses and identification cards. While states would benefit by not incurring the responsibilities and costs associated with validating citizenship or permanent resident status for holders of driver’s licenses, this move will certainly add to the immigration controversy.Oddly, although Secretary Napolitano is calling for repeal of the Act, the official website for the Department of Homeland Security is touting the value of the Act. The website says, “REAL ID is a nationwide effort to improve the integrity and security of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, which in turn will help fight terrorism and reduce fraud.” The DHS website goes on to say, “Raising the standards of state-issued identification is an important step toward enhancing national security. Because a driver’s license serves so many purposes (access to federal buildings, nuclear power plants, boarding aircraft, etc.) terrorists actively seek fraudulent state-issued identification.”
By reverting to the laws in place prior to the REAL ID Act, more is at stake than just the states saving money. For one thing, the 9/11 commission believed the Act was necessary for security reasons, according to Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a sponsor of the law. And, other provisions affect the manner in which immigrants can live and work in the United States.
For example, the REAL ID Act raises the bar for establishing refugee status by requiring corroboration of evidence in Immigration Court hearings. In most cases now, the refugee cannot simply rely on his or her testimony. Evidence such as newspaper articles, police reports, medical reports, etc. must be filed to support a case.
Rather than seeing us step back from the REAL ID Act, the current law needs to be enforced until Congress debates and passes a law which addresses security and immigration, as well as the economic issues faced by the states due to the immigration policies we now have.
Efforts to address these issues are finally moving forward again. The Immigration Policy Center just announced that on April 30, 2009 the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship will begin hearings on common sense solutions to immigration. Hopefully, we will see some results this time around.