Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Does the Real ID Act Unfairly Target Immigrants?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators wrote in the Sep. 2006 Executive Summary of the report “The Real ID Act: National Impact Analysis,” that:

“On May 11, 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act (Real ID) as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief Act (P.L. 109-13), creating national standards for the issuance of state driver’s licenses (DLs) and identification cards (IDs). The act establishes certain standards, procedures and requirements that must be met by May 11, 2008 if state-issued DL/IDs are to be accepted as valid identification by the federal government. These standards are likely to alter long-standing state laws, regulations and practices governing the qualifications for and the production and issuance of DL/IDs in every state. They also will require substantial investments by states and the federal government to meet the objectives of the act.”

Sept. 2006

The Los Angeles Times stated in a Mar. 2, 2007 article titled “Real ID Act Postponed Two Years” that:

“Under siege from states and angry lawmakers, the White House on Thursday moved back a deadline to implement national driver’s license standards that critics say would seriously undermine personal privacy and burden states with a hefty bill…

The 2005 law requires new tamper-proof security features on licenses issued only to people who can prove citizenship or legal status. Their personal information would be kept in a database network that would be accessible by motor vehicle departments nationwide. All Americans would be required to renew their licenses by 2013. Those without one would be barred from federal buildings or airplanes unless they could show a passport or some other form of federally approved photo identification.”

Mar. 2, 2007

PRO (yes)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in its Apr. 26, 2005 press release, “ACLU Urges Conferees to Remove ‘Real ID’ From Funding Measure; Proposal Attacks the Persecuted, Harms Immigrants,” that:

“‘Proponents are selling the Real ID Act as a fix to the immigration system, when it actually makes thing worse,’ said Timothy H. Edgar, ACLU Policy Counsel for National Security. ‘Sadly, Congress did not take the time to carefully consider and review its provisions – if it had, lawmakers would see that the Real ID Act not only denies the persecuted safe haven here, but it would place undue burdens on legal permanent residents and citizens alike…

The act goes against international law and allows government officials to demand written ‘corroboration’ from those seeking asylum. For instance, a Chinese woman seeking asylum after being forced to have an abortion could be required to obtain proof of her abuse from the doctors who performed the procedure.

Additionally, the Real ID Act would waive all state and federal laws to give the Department of Homeland Security unconditional authority to build barriers along the entire border — placing private property in the hands of federal agents for a ‘land grab’ for national security purposes.”

Apr. 26, 2005


The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), in its May 3, 2005 “Statement on Real ID,” wrote:

“Once enacted, the REAL ID Act will have numerous negative consequences, including: making it extremely difficult for people fleeing persecution to obtain refuge in the United States; suspending the Great Writ of habeas corpus for the first time since the Civil War; increasing the number of uninsured, unlicensed drivers on our roadways; severely limiting the critical law enforcement utility of Department of Motor Vehicle databases; imposing impossible and unfunded mandates on the states; undermining our fundamental commitment to free speech and association; and waiving all laws related to construction of fences at our borders, thereby granting unprecedented, and unnecessary, authority to the Department of Homeland Security…

Proponents of the REAL ID Act have cloaked this measure in the rhetoric of enhanced security and/or of controlling illegal immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this measure will not make us safer. Rather, it offers a dangerous detour that will accomplish nothing in terms of safety, and diverts us from the task of enacting comprehensive immigration reform which the American voters strongly support.”

May 3, 2005


Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), in its May 5, 2005 press release titled “Passage of Real ID Act Ultimately ‘Will Amount to Grave Danger’ for Asylum-Seekers,” stated:

“The Real I.D. Act allows a judge to deny asylum for lack of consistency in any statements, oral or written, sworn or not, made at any time. A traumatized person might not be able to speak openly about abuse or torture to the first immigration official encountered; under this new law, that omission could be used to impeach subsequent sworn testimony. While the final language slightly modified this harsh standard by directing adjudicators to consider ‘the totality of the circumstances’ when making credibility determinations, such determinations are subjective and stand to be applied unevenly.

The law also will codify highly subjective credibility factors, including a person’s ‘demeanor,’ as a basis for denying asylum.”

May 5, 2005


People For the American Way (PFAW), published an article (accessed May 16, 2007) titled “The REAL ID Act of 2005” on its website, that stated:

“People For the American Way (PFAW) believes America’s immigrants are a strong and valuable part of the social fabric of this nation. The REAL ID Act of 2005, which was signed into law by President Bush in May, significantly undermines fundamental due process and basic fairness in our immigration system. PFAW recognizes the need for comprehensive reform of the immigration system and for the safety of all our communities. However, the REAL ID Act of 2005 is an ill-conceived law that harms our nation’s immigrants, while doing nothing to enhance our safety or reform our broken immigration system. PFAW believes that governmental efforts to reform the immigration system must be consistent with the American tradition of individual rights and liberties.”

May 16, 2007

CON (no)


James Sensenbrenner, JD, Republican Congressman representing Wisconsin, is quoted in a Feb. 9, 2005 press release titled “Sensenbrenner House Floor Statement on REAL ID Legislation,” as having stated:

“The REAL ID Act contains four provisions aimed at disrupting terrorist travel. First, the legislation does not try to set states’ policy for those who may or may not drive a car, but it does address the use of a driver’s license as a form of identification to a federal official. American citizens have the right to know who is in their country, that people are who they say they are, and that the name on the driver’s license is the real holder’s name, not some alias…

Second, this legislation will tighten our asylum system, which has been abused by terrorists… Irresponsible judges have made the asylum laws vulnerable to fraud and abuse… The REAL ID Act will reduce the opportunity for immigration fraud so that we can protect honest asylum seekers and stop rewarding the terrorists and criminals who falsely claim persecution…

Third, the REAL ID Act will waive federal laws to the extent necessary to complete gaps in the San Diego border security fence, which is still stymied eight years after congressional authorization. Neither the public safety nor the environment are benefitting from the current stalemate.

Finally, the REAL ID Act contains a common-sense provision that helps protect Americans from terrorists who have infiltrated the United States… The REAL ID Act makes aliens deportable from the U.S. for terrorism-related offenses to the same extent that they would be inadmissible to the United States to begin with. And the Act provides that any alien who knowingly provides funds or other material support to a terrorist organization will be subject to immigration consequences.”

Feb. 9, 2005


Michael Chertoff, JD, US Secretary of Homeland Security, wrote in a May 2, 2007 editorial “Real ID: Necessary Tool For Protection” in the The Sacramento Bee that:

“On Aug. 1, 2001, Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar managed to obtain driver’s licenses at a Department of Motor Vehicles office in Virginia. They had the necessary paperwork. They obtained it by handing $100 to an illegal immigrant in a convenience store parking lot who signed forms attesting that they were local residents.

On Sept. 11, 2001, both men used the licenses to board American Airlines Flight 77, hijack the plane and fly it into the Pentagon. Sixteen of the 17 other hijackers also managed to obtain state driver’s licenses and other U.S. identification documents, some through fraudulent means. That is why the 9/11 Commission recommended that our nation improve its system to secure identification documents…

By standardizing the current patchwork of state licensing rules and procedures for driver’s licenses, the Real ID Act will make it harder for dangerous people to obtain these documents fraudulently. The Real ID Act will also make it easier for law enforcement to detect documents that have been falsified. In so doing, this act provides us with an invaluable new tool to prevent terrorism and protect our homeland…

Through that legislation, we as a nation chose to shut a window of vulnerability that would have been exploited repeatedly by those who seek stolen or false identities to enter our country and do us harm. We chose to make a commitment to do our utmost to prevent another Sept. 11. Now is the time to honor our commitment and keep moving forward.”

May 2, 2007


The National Review Online (NRO), in a May 5, 2005 editorial titled “I Want My Real ID,” wrote that:

“Immigration enthusiasts are howling about the immigration-security provisions of the Real ID Act, which is part of the Iraq-funding bill the House is expected to vote on today. Their opposition alone would be enough to recommend the measure; but the substance is also compelling.

As its name suggests, the key element of Real ID is establishing federal minimum standards for the driver’s licenses and non-driver IDs issued by the states. Such a reform was specifically highlighted in the 9/11 Commission’s report, and with good reason.

No one seeking to open a bank account, rent a truck, board a plane, or enter a nuclear-power plant can do so without ID, because the mobility and anonymity of modern society make it imperative that people be able to prove who they are. In our decentralized system of government, state driver’s licenses have evolved to serve this purpose, and making it as hard as possible for terrorists and other bad guys to get these documents is an important piece of any homeland security strategy. After all, two of the 9/11 hijackers were able to get multiple state IDs after they had become illegal aliens, and future enemy operatives are even more likely to be illegal aliens, as legal entry becomes harder for them.”

May 5, 2005