Future Of “REAL ID Act” Uncertain

By Dolores M. Bernal, NEWS JUNKIE POST

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hear from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and others on Wednesday about the future of the REAL ID Act.

The legislation enacted in 2005 by Congress requires passports for U.S. Citizens crossing from Mexico and Canada, as well as strict authentication standards for federal and state issued ID cards and driver’s licenses. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) sponsored the law to prevent terrorists from getting away with traveling with fake documents. But the REAL ID Act, has faced serious, real problems.

The REAL ID Act has been criticized for deterring commerce, for unfairly targeting undocumented immigrants and for being too expensive. It’s been estimated that carrying out legislation will cost states $11 to $17 billion.

The Act required states to have fulfilled its requirements by April 2008, but none of the states have been able to meet the deadline. The Department of Homeland Security issued extensions last year to states so they could meet the extended deadline — December 2009. States must meet certain benchmarks by May 2011.

But under the current economy and with budget deficits in most states across the country, the REAL ID Act may have to be put back on the shelf until further notice. The new head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, hasn’t been very fond of the legislation (as Governor of Arizona, Napolitano blocked the Act in her state). Her testimony tomorrow will weigh in heavily on any recommendations the panel makes to the Senate.

Other notable people attending the hearing will be Los Angeles Sheriff Leroy De Baca and the former Dept. of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary, Steward Baker.

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