Draft legislation is circulating on the Hill to repeal the REAL ID Act. Passed in 2005, with bipartisan support, the REAL ID Act requires states to assure that any identity cards used for a federal purpose (like passing through a Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint before boarding a plane) be issued only to individuals who are lawfully present in the United States. The law also prompts states to adopt best practices to provide better information protection and combat identity theft, fraud, and trafficking in counterfeit IDs. State compliance with the law is voluntary. The federal government also modified implementation and provided financial and technical assistance to help implement the statute.
Nevertheless, some governors opted out. Now trying to kill the law (which implemented one of the key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission). And they have help in Washington. As I wrote in “A REAL Homeland Security Test,” “[t]hese states have a key ally, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. As governor of Arizona, she vociferously opposed REAL ID.”
To make matter worse, the law she wants to replace it with, a draft bill called PASS ID, “reads as an initiative designed to pave the way for granting a general amnesty to illegal immigrants. One reading of the PASS ID Act suggests it may establish a federal requirement, as part of ‘legalization,’ that states must issue drivers’ licenses to everyone here illegally.”
As I testified in 2007, “Congress should insist that the Administration fully implement the requirements for national standards in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the REAL ID Act of 2005. These laws do not create a national identification card, but establish that when key identification materials, such as drivers, licenses (and the documents used to obtain them, such as birth certificates), are issued at any level of government and used for a federal purpose (such as security checks before boarding commercial passenger planes), these documents must meet national standards of authenticity. Such documents should only be issued to persons lawfully living in the United States.”