Immigration in 2011 – Part 3 of 10, Restrictions on State Identification Cards (REAL ID)

Third part of our ten part series examining the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) publication of “What to Watch Out for on Immigration in 2011.”

Topic #3: Restrictions on State Identification Cards (REAL ID)

The REAL ID Act was brought up after national security concerns grew in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The act scrutinized state driver licenses as well as identification cards, creating a federal standard for driver licenses issued.

Rising conflict over the enactment of the REAL ID Act is likely to continue to grow during the 112th Congress. Originally, the act was supposed to go in effect in 2008 but due to obstacles it has been postponed to May 10, 2011. If this act were passed, individuals who could not provide sufficient basic documentation proving their legal status would not be issued a driver’s license. Many criticize the idea of creating a new driver’s license system, pointing out that with the new system states will begin obtaining, storing and sharing more personal information about each applicant. The influx of sensitive information poses the increased possibility for identity theft and fraud. Restrictions on driver’s licenses from the large population of undocumented workers also creates fear of being reported and pushes the illegal immigrants to be less cooperative with law enforcement.

Senators Akaka (D-HI) and Voinovich (R-OH) proposed an alternative to the REAL ID Act back in 2009, called the Providing for Additional Security in States’ Identification Act (PASS ID Act). A key difference between the REAL ID Act and the PASS ID Act is that states are prohibited from accessing other states transportation databases under the PASS ID Act. This change addressed some of the security concerns critics had of the REAL ID Act. However, PASS ID is not a perfect piece of legislation and is considered stricter in the fact that it requires work authorization in order for individuals applying for asylum and temporary protected status (TPS) to receive a license. Additionally, under the PASS ID Act licenses could be denied without review to any population of people by the DHS Secretary which is a significant cause for concern.

Contact Information