June 15, 2009
Akaka Bill Offers Substantial Improvements,
But National ID Remains A Problem
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – With opposition to all or part of a de facto national ID law fast approaching in half the states, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced legislation today to improve the Real ID Act of 2005. While offering some important privacy protections, this legislation could ultimately resurrect the discredited Real ID Act and become the basis for a National ID.
“Four years after becoming law, the Real ID Act is essentially dead,” said Chris Calabrese, Counsel of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program. “Senator Akaka is right in his efforts to eliminate a substantial number of the more problematic aspects of Real ID, including the creation of a national database of driver information and misuse of license information by the private sector. But while these attempts at improvement are commendable, Real ID cannot be ‘fixed,’ and we oppose anything that would revive it.”
As passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, the Real ID Act directs states to issue a federally-approved driver’s license or other form of ID which would be necessary for airline travel and become part of a national database. Like state governments from coast to coast, the American Civil Liberties Union has long opposed the Act as too invasive, too much red tape and too expensive.
During remarks before the Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Conference this past April, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano responded to an audience question by saying that she had been meeting with a bipartisan group of governors and discussing “a way to repeal Real ID.” At the event, she also echoed the sentiment of many states by implying the Act was an unfunded federal mandate.
As a Governor, Secretary Napolitano led one of the 23 states that have enacted anti-real ID bills or resolutions. Thirteen states passed binding legislation prohibiting participation in the Real ID program: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Ten other states have enacted resolutions in opposition to Real ID: Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee. Oregon and Missouri will likely become the next states to opt out of Real ID if their governors sign legislation currently before them.
“Any day now, we will have fully half of all states on record opposing Real ID,” said Calabrese. “We agree with Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano that the best solution to the Real ID Act is to repeal it.”
Like Real ID, the Akaka legislation would still cause substantial hardship for legal immigrants, bar undocumented immigrants from securing licenses and might endanger the privacy and safety of victims of domestic violence. It is not yet clear what the impact would be on licensing fees or how much it would increase the bureaucracy involved in securing a license.
“Unfortunately under Senator Akaka’s proposal, a state would have to adopt Real ID or risk having all its citizens subject to secondary screening at airports,” added Calabrese. “With this bill, states may still be coerced into adopting a National ID. It is also problematic that this legislation contains no exemption for religious beliefs of those who oppose identification.”
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