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On The Front Lines

Citing Mounting Opposition Among States, Astronomical Costs & Privacy Concerns, Rutherford Institute Warns Against Implementation of Real ID

WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Rutherford Institute has joined with a national coalition of organizations to vigorously oppose any effort by the federal government to force states to comply with the Real ID Act of 2005. The Real ID Act would essentially establish a national ID by requiring states to comply with costly and restrictive federal licensing standards aimed at creating a national database of drivers’ licenses. Alternately derided as a national ID card, a violation of the Tenth Amendment, an unfunded mandate, and a threat to civil liberties, the Real ID program has largely stalled, primarily due to mounting opposition from the states, many of which have adopted laws or resolutions opposing it. In its letter to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, the coalition—comprised of The Rutherford Institute, the ACLU, the Constitutional Alliance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Liberty Coalition, among others—warned against Congress or the Department of Homeland Security attempting to revive the Real ID program, insisting that doing so would not only be costly to the states, but would also jeopardize civil liberties by facilitating the government’s ability to track Americans—a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The coalition’s letter to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime is available here.

“Civil and privacy rights advocates, as well as liberal-, conservative-, and libertarian-leaning organizations, have long raised concerns that a national ID card would enable the government to track citizens and, thus, jeopardize the privacy rights of Americans,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “When all is said and done, the adoption of a national ID card serves one purpose only: to provide the government with the ultimate control over the American people.”

On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed the Real ID Act of 2005 into law, essentially establishing the first national identification system in American history. Real ID initially gave states three years to comply with restrictive federal licensing standards, create a national database of drivers’ license information and build huge databases of individual birth certificates and other personal information. The foremost concern among a growing number of state officials is the overwhelming financial and administrative costs they will be forced to shoulder in order to meet the law’s requirements, which could add up to a massive $23.1 billion over 10 years. Moreover, if states are to collect, scan and verify the information of every single ID holder, as the law demands, those close to the issue insist that motor vehicle bureaus will need more staff, computers and software, and a world-class security system.

For instance, the law requires that all 245 million license and state ID holders in the United States visit their local DMVs to acquire a special identification card. Citizens who do not have this special identification by a given date will not be able to perform important yet routine tasks such as travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, enter federal government buildings or take advantage of most government services. The law requires that each person provide a photo ID, birth certificate, proof of their Social Security number and proof of residence in order to receive the identification. This information will then be stored in massive databases maintained by the states and shared among them. Once the DMV receives all the necessary information, it will issue the applicant a new identification card, which will include the person’s name, date of birth, picture and some form of machine-readable technology.

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