HARRISBURG- When the most recent attempt at immigration reform included a provision requiring a Real ID for employment verification for all American workers, several senators introduced an amendment to strip the provision from the bill. A vote yesterday to remove that amendment from consideration by the Senate failed, and the amendment's supporters included Senator Robert Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania.
His vote drew praise from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
"Senator Casey recognized that the Real ID provision of the immigration bill would further entrench this new national identification system at a time when people around the country are raising their voices in protest against it," said Larry Frankel, Legislative Director of the ACLU of PA.
The federal Real ID Act passed in 2005 and drastically alters federal standards for state drivers licenses.
Casey's vote came one day after the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for repeal or at least revision of the Real ID Act. The PA Senate's action on SR 126 followed the state's House of Representatives, which passed a similar resolution last week, and 17 other states that have passed resolutions or legislation against Real ID.
"A diverse group of states recognizes that Real ID is another costly and unfunded federal mandate that unnecessarily invades the privacy of law-abiding citizens," Frankel said.
Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 as part of an emergency spending bill for U.S. troops and tsunami victims. The PA Senate's resolution noted that the estimated start-up cost would be $100 million, and the cost of continuing the program is expected to cost $50 million annually.
The legislation would also create a massive new federal database that would link all state Department of Motor Vehicles databases and would require state DMVs to store electronic copies of individuals' personal documents, like birth certificates.
"Real ID creates a gold mine for identity thieves and for the corrupt DMV workers who assist them," Frankel said.
Supporters of Real ID in Congress have justified its passage by claiming that it would protect the country from terrorism, but the Senate resolution questioned that argument.
"Identification-based security provides only limited security benefits because it can be avoided by defrauding or corrupting card issuers and because it gives no protection against people not already known to be planning or committing wrongful acts," the Senate resolution states.
The deadline for states to comply with the Real ID program is May, 2008, but states can apply for an extension to 2009. If a state chooses not to participate in the program, its citizens can be barred from conducting federal business, including flying on an airplane, opening a bank account, and entering a federal building.
Georgia, Maine, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Washington have all passed statutory bans on the implementation of Real ID.