What is going on with driver’s licenses and immigrants? And what is Real ID?
The State of Tennessee is cited as a state intent on making a driver’s license or certificate available two individuals without requiring a valid social security number. According to a recent AP story published in the Washington Post (registration required), Tennessee continues to have a liberal policy towards awarding of driver’s licenses. This is at a time when state governments are beginning to struggle to comply with the Real ID requirements Congress imposed in 2005, to be effective in 2008.
The AP reported on 1/29/06 that
Tennessee has issued more than 51,000 certificates since it became the first state to offer them in July 2004, but not every certificate has gone to someone living there.
The disclosures come as Tennessee’s certificate system is being studied as a possible model for handling “non-conforming drivers” under the Real ID program recently enacted by Congress that will set a national standard for driver’s licenses by 2008.
Although the words “not valid for identification” appear in bold red letters on the face of the wallet-size certificates, banks accept them as legal ID.
“What we tried to do in Tennessee was to recognize that there are people who may be legally here but they are not completely documented,” Gov. Phil Bredesen said.
Tennessee had started licensing illegal immigrants, without a Social Security number requirement, in early 2001. More than 180,000 obtained licenses before 9-11 fears set in. The driving certificates were created in 2004 to satisfy homeland security concerns while allowing illegal immigrants to drive with certified proficiency.
Here is a brief analysis of Real ID when Congress passed it in May 2005 as part of a supplemental budget act. The following was excerpted from www.fcw.com:
According to the bill, the Homeland Security Department will be responsible for setting those standards. Under the Real ID Act, driver’s licenses and personal ID cards must include the cardholder’s legal name, date of birth, address, gender, signature, card number, digital photograph, physical security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication and common machine readable technology with defined minimum data elements.
State motor vehicle administrators must verify the validity of at least four feeder documents, such as a Social Security card or passport, before issuing driver’s licenses or personal ID cards.
By Sept. 11, states must sign a memorandum of understanding with DHS to use the automated Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system to verify the legal presence of a driver’s license applicant who is not a U.S. citizen. States must capture digital images of applicants and electronically exchange driver histories with other states.
According to the bill, the new measures would take effect in three years, possibly affecting travel and access for some individuals. For example, federal officials could stop people from boarding a plane or entering a building if they have a driver’s license or personal ID card from a state that does not comply with the federal standards.
The National Immigration Law Center issued in October 2005 a comparison of application requirements for U.S> Passport and “Real ID” Driver’s License.
The National Employment Law Project contributed analysis used in the NILC’s study.