Virginia ACLU Wants Webb and Warner to Support Removal of Real ID ProvisionsRichmond, VA - In its proposed immigration reform legislation, the U.S. Senate is trying to force states to implement the controversial – and widely opposed – Real ID Act, which institutes, for all intents and purposes, a national ID program. The ACLU of Virginia is urging members and others concerned about privacy rights to ask Senators Jim Webb and John Warner to support amendments to the immigration bill that will remove the Real ID requirements.
As the proposed immigration legislation is currently written, anyone who wants to be employed must have a standardized government-approved Real ID that is part of a nationwide database to be kept by DMV's across the country. The Real ID Act, due to be implemented in 2008 unless repealed or amended, already requires most individuals to have Real IDs to fly on an airplane or enter federal facilities.
“This is not a comment on the immigration bill per se,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, “our opposition is to a backdoor provision of the bill that will force states to implement the Real ID law.”
The ACLU has opposed Real ID primarily because it invades privacy and lacks the proper mechanisms for securing the vast amount of personal data to be collected by the government. At the very least, it will create an unprecedented opportunity for identity theft by putting sensitive, personally identifiable information in one computer file at the state DMV and then allowing millions of federal, state and local government employees to have access to it.
State legislatures across the country have rejected Real ID. Seventeen states have passed anti-Real ID bills within the last year. Five states – Montana, Oklahoma, Maine, South Carolina and New Hampshire – passed binding legislation saying they would never participate in Real ID. Georgia and Washington voted not to implement Real ID without full federal funding and privacy protections.
Although Virginia has not passed anti-Real ID legislation, in 2005 then Governor Mark Warner commissioned a task force to study Real ID Act. The task force, the first of its kind in the nation, issued a report that was highly critical of Real ID. (The report is available from the DMV's website at http://www.dmv.state.va.us/webdoc/temp/pdf/realidreport.pdf.)
The Department of Homeland Security estimates the cost to taxpayers of implementing Real ID to be $23 billion.
Individuals interested in learning more about the Real ID provision of the immigration bill and taking action to oppose it should visit www.acluva.org/pages/realid.html.