ACLU to Senate: The Nation Opposes Real ID, It’s Time To Scrap It

June 7, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Civil Liberties Union today called on Senators to support legislation stripping Real ID provisions from the Senate immigration bill. A flurry of recent activity in the state legislatures in the past week has made it clearer than ever that Americans oppose the act, and Congress needs to respond by repealing, not expanding Real ID. The ACLU also reported that a systematic review of 10,000 citizen comments on Real ID filed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed that they were almost uniformly negative.

"How long can Washington close its eyes to the reality that Americans oppose Real ID?" said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "As more and more states have slammed the brakes on Real ID, some in Congress seem to be flooring the gas pedal. If Congress keeps trying to implement this costly and unworkable law Americans don't want, the only possible outcome is disaster."

Fifteen states have now passed legislation opposing Real ID. Maine, the state that kicked off the Real ID rebellion in January with a resolution, on Monday became the latest to pass a binding statute. New Hampshire and South Carolina, meanwhile, are on the verge of also joining the rebellion by passing opt-out statutes of their own.

"The governors have spoken, the state legislatures have spoken and the people have spoken," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. "Real ID has gotten a big 'thumbs down,' and no amount of superficial cheerleading can save it. Americans don't want a national ID and they don't want to be monitored."

The ACLU also revealed that its own systematic review of the approximately 10,000 citizen comments submitted to DHS in response to the department's proposed Real ID regulations found only 50 comments from citizens supported the proposed regulations or the legislation itself. The vast majority called Real ID at best unworkable and at worst dangerous. DHS has previously characterized the comments as "mixed." (The ACLU's review did not include approximately 2,000 comments that DHS has not yet posted online.)

"Real ID is far too serious an issue to be tucked away in a mammoth immigration bill," said Tim Sparapani, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. "Real ID sets new standards for invasions of privacy and puts Americans' most person information at risk. If the nightmare scenario were to come true and the government forced Real ID onto the states, this initial rebellion we've seen would turn into an outright revolt."

The Real ID Act, if implemented, would federalize state driver's licenses and turn them into a de facto national identity card. According to DHS's own estimates, it would cost taxpayers $23 billion. Every American would need a Real ID-compliant identification card in order to fly on commercial airlines or enter government buildings. The massive government databases created by Real ID would contain Americans' most personal information - including social security numbers and copies of birth certificates. This information would be accessible to thousands of state, local and government workers across the nation, creating a one-stop shop for identity thieves.

The results of the Belden Russonello and Stewart poll are online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/29847leg20070523.html

A map showing the status of anti-Real ID legislation across the nation can be found at: www.realnightmare.org/news/105/

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