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REAL ID - A Status Report

After 9/11, anti-immigrant fever swept the nation. This irrational fever manifested itself in various forms, most notably through the REAL ID Act (H.R. 418). Originally, it was intended to improve drivers’ license security. In reality, the act would have turned drivers’ licenses into a national ID card as it would have created a national database of all drivers and developed a common way for all licenses to be read by scanner.

According to the ACLU, use of such ID cards could then quickly spread and be used for other purposes, resulting in a gross violation of our privacy. Every state would have been required to prove lawful immigration status. This would make victims of trafficking, asylees, applicants for asylum, and those residing here with nonimmigrant visas.

Due to the discriminatory nature of this act, 25 states have rejected REAL ID. Fifteen of these states even made it illegal to comply with REAL ID. Without a passport, airline passengers would not be able to travel domestically. This would create a huge problem for the more than 70 percent of Americans without U.S. passports. Fortunately, the DHS has not enforced it in the face of growing opposition from states and from civil rights organizations. Instead of confronting real issues in the immigration system, politicians are ignoring the real problems. The ineffectiveness of this law has been proven through its setbacks. Originally intended to be enforced on May 11, 2011, the Real ID Act has now been pushed back to January 2013.

Recently, the ALCU has called on the Department of Homeland security to recognize that it must be repealed in the face of growing opposition from states.