There Is No Such Thing As A "National ID Card"


ACRU Staff


May 22, 2007

Below is a description of the provisions of what is inaccurately being called the National ID Act. These are minimum standards which all states are required to follow, as a matter of national security and illegal immigration. All states are free to have whatever requirements they choose, above and beyond these minimums.

The “Real ID Act of 2005” was actually passed as Section B of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005. It repealed a prior law that sought consultation between federal agencies and the states, to set standards for issuance of Drivers Licenses and IDs (subsequently referred to here as DL/ID). It replaced that with a required set of standards.

It required these minimum elements in all DL/IDs: (1) person’s full legal name, (2) person’s date of birth, (3) person’s gender, (4) DL/ID number, (5) digital photograph, (6), person’s address of legal residence, (7) person’s signature, (8) physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication for fraudulent purposes, and (9) a common machine-readable technology with defined data elements.

The way that a federal standard could apply to a state-issued document was this: “A federal agency may not accept a driver’s license or personal identification card (DL/ID) after May 11, 2008, unless the state has been certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to meet the requirements of the law.” This means that no American can use his/her state drivers license to board an airplane, draw Social Security, receive other federal benefits, or obtain a passport, etc., unless his/her state is in compliance with this federal law, by that date. Non-conforming DL/IDs shall state on their face that they “may not be accepted for federal identification or any other official purpose, and [have] a unique design or color indicator to alert federal agencies or other law enforcement personnel that it may not be accepted….”

States must obtain proof of the following: A photo identity document (except that a non-photo identity document is acceptable if it includes both the person’s full legal name and date of birth). Documentation showing the person’s date of birth. Proof of the person’s social security account number (SSN)… or verification that the person is not eligible for an SSN. Documentation showing the person’s name and address of principal residence. The state is required to verify each of the documents presented, and to keep both paper documents and electronic scans for a required number of years. If the Social Security Number has apparently been issued to more than one person, the state must “resolve the discrepancy” before issuing the DL/ID.

There is also a negative: A state shall not accept any foreign document other than an official passport.

Before issuing a DL/ID the state must require and verify documentation for the fact that the applicant is an American citizen, or is one of five categories of aliens. In the latter categories, the license shall be temporary and issued only for the length of stay in the US, or if no length is shown, for no more than a year.

Each state shall make available the information in its motor vehicle data base to all other states.

Lastly, the Department of Homeland Security is empowered, “in consultation with the states” to issue regulations to carry out the provisions of the law.

Note that this law does not prevent any state from passing a law to allow DL/IDs to be issued other than the federal law requires, including to illegal aliens. It simply provides that such DL/IDs will not be usable for federal purposes, and will be clearly marked so any law enforcement personnel will know it is not valid for such purposes.

In January, five years ago, I was invited to meet in Washington, D.C., with an ad hoc group of state legislators from around the country, The subject was the security implications of state drivers licenses, which have long been the basis of personal identification, credit issuance, etc. The point they already understood, and which I stressed, was that the state DL/ID system was as weak as its weakest link. Because all states had reciprocal laws with all others, anyone could go to the state with the most lax requirements, get a license there, and then trade that in for a license in any other state at any other address. The terrorists of 9/11 did exactly that.

I stressed to the state legislators that they would have to establish, in consultation with their colleagues across the country, the minimum standards that all states should follow, and stop the reciprocity for any states which refused to go along. Or, in the alternative, the Congress would inevitably set the minimum standards and enforce them against the states. The legislators in the group recognized the necessity for action. However, the states themselves could not agree on standards, by any of several routes.

So, ultimately, Congress stepped in to deal with the failure of the states to act, and this law was the result. Note that this law does not mean that a state cannot issue a drivers license to an illegal alien. But if a state does that, it must issue a licence that by color, design and statement on its face is “not valid for federal identification.” Of course, such a drivers license would also immediately show to any state or local law enforcement personnel that the person presenting it is not a citizen of the United States. It may just be that those who promote open borders for the US have just realized this last consequence of this law, and are encouraging conservatives to attack the law (as an unwanted “national ID card”) in hopes of protecting illegal aliens from identification in routine circumstances.



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