Monday, May 09, 2005

REAL ID Act Passes House of Representatives

Last Thursday, May 5, as part of an $82 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. House approved the REAL ID Act as well.

The REAL ID Act (H.R. 418) was approved by the House in February of 2005, but as part of the funding bill, the bill will most likey be easily approved by the Senate and the President, so the REAL ID Act will almost certainly soon become the law of the land.

Is this the first step toward a National ID Card? It depends who you ask.

The law is described as an anti-terror bill:

“This sensible legislation is aimed at preventing another 9/11-type attack by disrupting terrorist travel and bolstering our border security."

Beginning 3 years after enactment, no federal agency may accept, for any official purpose, a driver's license or identification card issued by a State unless the State is meeting the requirements of the law.

* States will have to get proof of legal residency before issuing a driver's license.
* Before issuing a driver's license, states would have to get from applicants a photo ID, a birth certificate, proof of their Social Security number and a document showing their full name and address.

This information would be crosss-referenced with federal databases.

The sponsor, Jim Sensenbrenner, states:

"Giving state drivers’ licenses to anyone, regardless of whether they are here legally or illegally, is an open invitation for terrorists and criminals to exploit." 

The federal government could no longer accept as proof of identification state driver's licenses or other ID cards that do not meet certain minimum requirements. This means people will need to carry around an ID Card with some very specific features to board a plane, open a bank account, enter secure buildings, interact with the government, collect Social Security, and prove they are in the country legally.

States will now have to require:

(A) photo identity document, except that a non-photo identity document is acceptable if it includes both the person's full legal name and date of birth.

(B) Documentation showing the person's date of birth.

(C) Proof of the person's social security account number or verification that the person is not eligible for a social security account number.

(D) Documentation showing the person's name and address of principal residence.

State must retain paper copies of source documents for a minimum of 7 years or images of source documents presented for a minimum of 10 years.

New ID features include:

* A Digital photo of individual
* Name, date of birth, sex, address, and signature
* Driver's license number or ID Number
* Machine-readable technology with certain minimum elements
* Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent

Section 203 of the bill, titled "LINKING OF DATABASES" will require states, if they get federal funding, to:

"Participate in the interstate compact regarding sharing of driver license data, known as the `Driver License Agreement', in order to provide electronic access by a State to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other States."

The shared database would have to include:

(1) All data fields printed on drivers' licenses and identification cards issued by the State.
(2) Motor vehicle drivers' histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions, and points on licenses.

The ACLU objects to the bill, saying it will reduce Americans' freedom.

They also object that the new databases could lead to identity theft, and and that the law would harm immigrants and asylum seekers.

For a non-PDF version of the bill, go to:


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