April 2, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: (202) 675-2312  or  media@dcaclu.org   

WASHINGTON DC – Earlier today, in response to the Department of Homeland Security denying Maine an extension to comply with the federal Real ID law, Governor John Baldacci agreed to propose changes in state law that currently allows undocumented people to obtain drivers’ licenses. Whether those changes are actually enacted into law is now in the hands of the Maine legislature, which last year overwhelmingly rejected Maine’s participation in the program.

“The Department of Homeland Security, so desperate for a victory around Real ID, has agreed to give Maine an extension based on nothing more than Governor Baldacci’s assurance that he will introduce legislation to bring Maine into compliance,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. “The fact is that all 50 states, including those that have said they cannot commit to implement the law, have now received extensions, signaling DHS’s continued determination never actually to enforce Real ID. It has nearly perfected the practice of kicking the can down the road.”

DHS gave the state of Maine only two days to respond to five additional measures the department said needed to be fulfilled in order to be granted the extension, some of which will require the Maine legislature to adopt. In January 2007, Governor Baldacci signed into law an anti-Real ID bill that was passed unanimously in the Maine Senate and by a vote of 137 to 4 in the House.

Tim Sparapani, ACLU senior legislative counsel added, “In today’s DHS oversight hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont put it best when addressing Secretary Chertoff, saying ‘Congress should repeal Real ID.’ The anti-Real ID movement is now revived, not only in Maine and Idaho, but also in the halls of Congress. State houses across the country have rejected a national identification system and that opposition is coming to a head. DHS can only fill the cracks in Real ID with bubblegum for so long; eventually, those cracks will cause the entire law to come crashing down.”

 

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