Paul  Weyrich

On January 11 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its final regulations for minimum security standards for state-issued drivers’ licenses and identification cards under the REAL ID Law passed by Congress in 2005. The law was created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting state-issued drivers’ licenses unless they meet the requirements issued by the Secretary of DHS.

The new requirements include a digital photograph and a security measure within the cards to prevent counterfeiting. Also, states must verify each applicant’s personal information and legal status by comparing it against the Federal Social Security database and passport databases. The first deadline for compliance is December 31, 2009, by which time states must verify the lawful status of all applicants “to ensure that illegal aliens cannot obtain REAL ID licenses.” Residents of those states which do not comply with this and other regulations will be unable to enter federal facilities or board commercial aircraft.

What was not included in the new regulations was a controversial provision to implant a computer chip which would store personal information in each driver’s license.

Readers of this column know that I vigorously defend federalism. Federalism is the principle that the United States Constitution enumerates specific powers for the Federal Government and those which are not enumerated are left to the states or individuals. Accordingly, I am relieved that the requirement for the computer chip has been removed. Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the Federal Government to collect and store personal information about U.S. citizens in such an excessive and unnecessary manner as this. Nor do I agree with a national identification card, which many fear the REAL ID may become.

With regard to the driver’s license requirements, the issue is slightly more difficult to parse. States such as Maryland, Oregon and Michigan are considering or have implemented verification of legal presence. Others, such as New York, have tried to give drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. Fortunately, the outcry against the idea was so great in New York that the proposal was rejected. That some elected officials would even consider giving illegal immigrants a driver’s license is troubling.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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