Coalition Fights Federalized Driver’s Licenses

– A coalition of 600 organizations
reflecting views across the political spectrum on Thursday launched a
last-minute lobbying blitz urging Congress to scuttle a proposal to
federalize driver’s licenses.

Kelly, co-director of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a
coalition participant, said the legislation setting national standards
for states issuing driver’s licenses will do little to make Americans

Kelly, whose brother Brian died
in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, said stringent new
driver’s-license requirements outlined in the House-passed Real ID Act
would not have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

She noted that Mohammed Atta, leader of the 9/11 terrorists, was
stopped in Florida and cited for driving without a license, while the
13 other terrorists who had U.S. driver’s licenses were admitted
legally to the United States and would not be prevented from getting
licenses if the Real ID Act were in place.

"We want nothing less than real security," Kelly said, contending the
assaults were a product of intelligence failures, not flaws in the
American system of issuing driver’s licenses. She said families of the
9/11 victims are divided over the issue of federalizing driver’s
licenses and acknowledged that some relatives support the measure.

President Bush embraced the legislation Tuesday in a letter to a
House-Senate conference committee considering including it in a
supplemental spending bill.

The Real
ID Act would require state motor-vehicle offices to verify the identity
of people receiving driver’s licenses, including their date of birth
and legal residence. County courthouses would be required to take new
steps to safeguard birth and citizenship records, and state
administrators would have to verify the legal immigration status of any
alien seeking a driver’s license.

Cheye Calvo of the National Conference of State Legislatures said the
Real ID Act sets procedures that are too stringent, and he predicted it
would paralyze motor-vehicle offices, which give out 70 million
licenses a year.

"States have been
doing driver’s licenses for almost 100 years, and we should have had
some say in this rather than this federal, one-size-fits-all,
we-know-best solution," he said.

said citizens will have to prove their identity before they can get the
new licenses, and aliens will have to show they are living in the
United States legally. He said the State Department issues 75 different
visas, and there’s no way state officials can verify what visas aliens
are using to live in the United States.

"These unworkable, rigid requirements are going to invalidate driver’s
licenses for a lot of purposes," he said. "It affects everyone who goes
to a DMV, and it threatens to make it a nightmare."

Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration
Lawyers Association, said organizations ranging from the AFL-CIO to the
American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Catholic Conference and the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights are opposing the proposal.

"We are from the left, the right, and the center, and we have
Latino-rights, civil-rights and equal-rights groups represented," she

The groups participating are listed at

Filed in: Media Coverage

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