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The Real Id Act

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The Real ID Act, which was sponsored by Representative Jerry Lewis and signed into law by the President on May 11, 2005, has set federal standards for the issuance of driver’s licenses and requires aliens to prove their "legal presence" in the United States (Thomas, HR 1268.) Its basic purpose is to ensure that state-issued licenses and IDs meet certain standards and requirements that the federal government sets before they will be considered valid. This piece of legislation has caused quite a bit of debate since its origination and passage into law. Some throughout the United States support this piece of legislation because they believe it will protect our country, as well as keep us out of harms way with regard to terrorism. However, many other Americans believe that problems will arise if the Real ID Act goes into place.

The Real ID Act was initiated for basic reasons: “Real ID is a nationwide effort intended to prevent terrorism, reduce fraud, and improve the reliability and accuracy of identification documents that State governments issue. The 9/11 Commission proposed that the United States needed to improve its system for issuing secure identification documents” (DHS, Guidelines). In the Commission’s words, “At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.” The Commission specifically urged the federal government to “set standards for the issuance of…sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” Congress responded to this key recommendation by passing the Real ID Act (DHS, Guidelines).

In 2004, the original Real ID act, which was authored by Representative James Sensenbrenner, went through Congress but it was known as the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (CNN, Ramasastry). At this time, the legislation blew through Congress, wasn’t even really looked at and turned down in this instance. It wasn’t until the Real ID Act was reintroduced and tacked onto the 2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, the Global War on Terror and Tsunami Relief (CNN, Ramasastry) that the legislation got some attention. The Senate Committee on Appropriations presented this new bill to Congress, with and without the Real ID Act, and it was ultimately passed with the Act by votes of 388-43 in the House and then 100-0 in the Senate (Thomas, HR 1268). This lead to President Bush signing off on the bill on May 11, 2005, making it a public law. It has since exploded onto the scene as more of a concern in the United States, rather than a problem solver.

The Real ID Act's identity cards will be covering a wide range of matters. If citizens are allowed to drive, visit a federal government building, collect Social Security, access a federal government service or use the services of a private entity (such as a bank or an airline) a Real ID card is required under federal law to verify customer identity.(CNN, Ramasastry) This act is definitely putting a lot of pressure on the state government, because as of right now, they will be the ones paying the bill and having to deal with numerous amounts of information that will be required: such as birth certificates and other personal documents.

Since the bill was signed off by the President on May 11, 2005, events have picked up throughout the government which includes both state and national.

“In September 2005 an election-reform commission chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III recommended that Real ID-compliant driver's licenses as election credentials; three commissioners dissent. On April 26, 2006 the National Governors Association and two other groups call for a delay in putting the Real ID act into effect due to practical concerns. Then moving ahead to September 2006, three state-government lobbies project a cost of $11 billion for the first five years of Real ID, an estimate that dwarfs a Congressional Budget Office estimate of $100 million. Then on Jan. 4, 2007 the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a photo-ID requirement for voting in Indiana, in contrast to court decisions in Missouri and Georgia rejecting such laws. Moving ahead to March 1, 2007 Department of Homeland Security publishes proposed Real ID rules, including a one-year delay in effective date, then Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff accepts state cost projection. Then finally, on April 17, 2007 Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Montana, declares “Hell, no,” and signs the toughest anti-Real ID state law in the nation, barring state participation in the program.” (CQ Researcher)

Montana is not the only state that is having problems with the Real ID Act. States are

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