REAL ID is a complex subject and cannot be discussed in 140 characters or less. As most of us know, we were attacked by 19 foreign nationals on 9/11/01. What many do not know is that other victims of that attack were our US and Florida Constitutions. The 9/11 Commission investigated the circumstances of the attack, and due to several of the attackers using a false address (but not a false name) on several driver license applications, determined federal driver license standards were needed.
While this may sound appealing to some, the fact is that Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution, which enumerates the powers of Congress, simply does not allow for such a function. The 10th Amendment specifies that any power not reserved for Congress is reserved to the States, or to the people. Next, the 4th Amendment gives us the right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Any seizure must be upon probable cause. Finally, the 14th Amendment prohibits States from abridging he privileges or immunities of US citizens. here in Florida, we have a right to be let alone from government intrusion into our private lives- this is Article 1 Section 23 of our Florida Constitution.
What followed the 9/11 commission report were two bills in the 2005 Congress: HR 418 and HR 1268. HR 418 was a standalone version of the REAL ID Act. Even though it was a Republican-authored bill in a Republican-controlled House, HR 418 could not be enacted as a standalone bill. The sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), then resorted to the time-tested means of hiding it within an unrelated bill that had to pass- HR 1268, a defense authorization and Tsunami relief bill. It passed in the House with just a few opponents, and with no opponents (or debate on REAL ID) in the Senate.
The REAL ID Act as specified in Title II (the part that deals with driver licenses) has four official purposes listed:
1) Entry into federal buildings;
2) Boarding federally-regulated commercial aircraft;
3) Entry into nuclear power plants; and
4) Any other purpose as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS).
The last one is never mentioned by Mr. Sensenbrenner or his allies for some reason. Give it some thought and ask yourself what some "lawful" applications of this could be- such as purchasing gasoline, opening a bank account, etc. The DHS Secretary is an unelected position.
REAL ID mandates numerous things for States that enact it- and it is mandatory that States do something, since if they do not comply, they must then change the way they issue their licenses to state they are not acceptable as "federal identification". If there are any doubts REAL ID is a national ID, that phrase alone should dispel them. When we factor in the photo standards required by REAL ID, it is in fact an international ID. Other requirements are that the government agency (usually the DMV) issuing the license retain by either paper or electronic copy the documents used in any application- which is where the 4th Amendment applies- the documents must be seized to be retained by copying. It also requires a residential address to be used- regardless of any State law that may protect the address of a current or former law enforcement officer, judge, etc., or a domestic violence victim. It requires certified documents to explain any name change- such as marriage or divorce- regardless of how long the person has been licensed. The fact that women are subject to far more difficult renewals than men and certain people are no longer subject to the birth certificate requirement is a violation of the 14th Amendment. The very fact the State is making you re-prove your identity without cause via these intrusive means is a violation of Florida's Article 1 Section 23.
Once the terms and costs of REAL ID became known, opposition arose across party lines and political ideologies. There are not many things the Florida ACLU and The Tea Party Network agree upon, but opposing REAL ID is one of them. According to our DMV, Florida, which already met many of the "benchmarks" and participated in a pilot program, spent over $10 million from 2008 through 2010 on REAL ID. About half of the States passed legislation to delay or outright ban participation in REAL ID. The latest to do so was Pennsylvania, just this month- May 2012. Their bill was sponsored by a nearly even mix of Democrats and Republicans, and then signed by their Republican governor.
Here in Florida, we enacted REAL ID in 2008 (with a January 2010 effective date) as CS/SB1992 by former Sen. Baker (R). It was thought it would prevent terror attacks such as 9/11 and have an unofficial side benefit of keeping illegal immigrants from obtaining a license. Like the handful of States that have adopted REAL ID, Florida's citizens quickly found out how well it worked- in fact it didn't work for many of them, notably divorced or married women, who found themselves looking for divorce decrees from 30+ years ago, and then having to foot the expense of getting a certified copy. Also, the elderly, many of whom did not have a birth certificate, but had been driving here for decades, could no longer renew their license due to the requirements of REAL ID. A change was made in Florida after so many of our elderly were unable to renew their licenses.
Some will argue that if a few are inconvenienced, this is really of little concern if we are more secure than before. The fact is that REAL ID has not helped to prevent one terror plot or identified one illegal alien. In a May 2011 study of 39 failed terror plots by the pro-REAL ID Heritage foundation, a review of them showed if REAL ID had been in place, none of them would have been foiled due to it- many of the plots involved US citizens eligible for a REAL ID. They were foiled by alert citizens and lawful police work.
Others such as Rep. Brad Drake (R), who chaired the 2012 Florida House transportation subcommittee, believed that while opposed to REAL ID, since it had been in place for so long, it was pointless to repeal it, and refused to even hear the 2012 repeal bill. Ditto Sen. Latvala (R), who chaired the Senate Transportation committee.
Our Florida politicians were likewise concerned that Washington would extort our "federal" highway funds if we refused to comply. While this has been attempted in the past for things such as seat belt laws and DUI levels, for REAL ID it failed miserably. From 2005 to 2010, there were two attempts to pass legislation to withhold funds from non-compliant States- one in a Republican-controlled Congress (HR 4160) and the other in a Democrat-controlled Congress (HR 140). Both of them died in committee and never got close to the floor for a vote.
Even more telling is a look at the original 19 attackers. Of them, all but three were here legally- which is the standard REAL ID uses for aliens. Each of them would have been eligible for a REAL ID license. Of course, as Jim Harper at the CATO Institute has pointed out, they all had passports, and as such could still get on a plane today with REAL ID in place. The fact is having your birth certificate, Social Security card, power and mortgage payment bills on file at the DMV will not prevent you from committing an act of terror. For those willing to die for their cause, such as the 19, this is even more so.
Yet another concern is the claim that REAL ID will reduce ID Theft- where someone uses your personal info to obtain something in your name. When you consider REAL ID requires each State to place all of the scanned personal documents into their central web-accessible database- which is subject to corrupt employees and hackers, this claim is an outright lie. Instead of cracking multiple databases, a hacker need only crack one. It's interesting to note that REAL ID went into effect here in Florida in 2010, and in 2011, the IRS recorded a huge increase in ID Theft in Florida by use of false tax returns. Maybe they are unrelated, but maybe not. The fact remains that the only way to keep your data 100% secure is to not place it in a database to begin with.
A reasonable person should ask if a law is not and cannot do what it is intended to do, then why do we have it? Factor in the violations of the US Constitution and the evidence against REAL ID is well beyond any reasonable doubt.
In 2013, a bill will be proposed to repeal the unconstitutional aspects of REAL ID while retaining the passive security features and those that apply to non-citizens. It is called the REAL ID Elimination Act, or RIDE Act. It will take the support of citizens across this state to get it "on the radar" and then compel our legislators to support and defend the Constitutions of Florida and the USA as they swore to do. As has been evidenced in Pennsylvania recently, this can and must be done.