Nationwide ID reform backed by Emerson

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A bill aimed at making personal identification more uniform across the country has some worried about privacy infringement.

The so-called Real ID Act, already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, is being touted by some as a means to tighten security and reduce the number of illegal aliens. Others call it an overdramatic move that could lead to a police state.

The bill, whose chief sponsor is Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., would prohibit federal agencies from accepting state-issued driver's licenses or identification cards unless they are determined by the Homeland Security Department to meet minimum security requirements.

Republican Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau said the requirements will help deter the number of illegal aliens that enter the country.

Because driver's licenses in some states are fairly easy to counterfeit, Emerson said the measure is necessary to force states to use anticounterfeit technology for their ID practices.

"People are using these fake IDs to get on welfare, to get on airplanes, you name it," Emerson said. "We have to use every tool that exists to keep the illegal aliens out of the country."

The bill would require that, to receive a valid ID, applicants would have to verify that they are legal residents of the United States. Temporary driver's licenses or ID cards would be issued to people only during their period of authorized stay.

The bill would require states, as a condition of receiving grant funds or other financial assistance related to the bill, to share ID data with other states.

The bill would require states to use digital photographs, but Emerson said other specifics have not been hashed out yet.

Some people have suggested including a variety of information on the machine-readable cards, including organizations people belong to or stances they have taken on issues such as abortion or firearms.

The ACLU is opposed to the measure. It says the act will make it tougher for legal immigrants who are fleeing to the United States because of abuse in their homelands.

The ACLU, in a letter submitted to Congress, said the bill would require written corroboration, such as police reports or other documents, for asylum claims. The ACLU argues that immigrants trying to escape abuse by another government would lack official documents backing up the claims.

The bill would also beef up the border patrol and expedite the construction of a 1 1/2-mile wall south of San Diego, where illegal immigrants are known to sneak into the country.


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