Real ID Act passes Senate unanimously with little debate

[JURIST] The Real ID Act [PDF text; UPI backgrounder] passed the US Senate 100-0 late Tuesday as a rider on an $82B emergency supplemental appropriations bill [PDF text] funding military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. The controversial act [CNET FAQ], intended to discourage illegal immigration and increase domestic security, sets federal identification standards for obtaining state driver's licenses and multiplies the number of documents needed to obtain licenses. After 2008, anyone without an approved state ID issued under the act will not be permitted to travel by air or Amtrak, enter federal buildings, or open a bank account. House Judiciary Committee chairman and bill sponsor Rep. James Sensenbrenner failed to get the identity provisions included last year in an intelligence reform package negotiated with the Senate but was promised that he could add them to the next legislative package guaranteed to get overall Congressional approval. In the interim Sensenbrener pushed the provisions through the House again in February as HR 418 [PDF], but the measure became stalled at the Senate committee stage, and no hearings on it were held there.

As part of the appropriations bill the revived Act passed by a narrower 261-161 vote in the House [JURIST report] Thursday after being opposed by some state officials and rights groups [JURIST report]. States, which have 3 years to comply with the act, have expressed concerns about their lack of the financial, infrastructure and personnel resources necessary to implement the act properly. The National Conference of State Legislatures [official website] recently wrote Congress expressing its concern that the act would cost states between $300M and $500M, although Sensenbrenner claims it would cost only $100M to implement; the Congressional Budget Office [official website] predicts it will cost states $50M to $70M annually. UnREALID.com [advocacy website] and other activist groups believe the legislation effectively creates a national ID card and more than 10,800 citizens have filled out the site's on-line petition against the passage of the act. The ACLU [press release] and the Electronic Frontier Foundation [action alert] also mounted unsuccessful last minute drives to stop the Act, which they said would hurt immigrants, asylum seekers, and ordinary citizens. The legislation now heads to President Bush, who is expected to sign it later this month. Read Sensenbrenner's press release on Senate passage of the act. CNET has more.



 

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