The REAL ID Act passed by Congress this week does primarily three things:
1) it over-rides environmental laws to allow the closing of a three-mile gap in a border fence near San Diego;
2) it allows immigration judges to assess the credibility of asylum seekers; and
3) it instructs federal agencies not to accept as legal IDs for federal purposes the driver’s licenses of states that give identical driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and legal U.S. residents.
Under the law, states could issue a special type of driver’s license to illegal aliens and still have their primary type of license (reserved for people legally in the U.S.) accepted by the federal government.
But as soon as the law passed, critics argued it would make American highways more dangerous. “They charge that it would create a large group of unlicensed, uninsured motorists because millions of undocumented workers would not be able to obtain legal driver’s licenses,” reported the Chicago Tribune.
This not only ignores the facts of the REAL ID Act, it also assumes that any attempt to enforce U.S. laws on people who have entered the U.S. illegally is futile because no matter what laws we make the illegal aliens will break them.
These critics implicitly advocate carving out a zone of lawlessness within the United States as a sanctuary for illegal aliens. Up until now, of course, that has pretty much been the de facto policy of the federal government. But it is an indefensible policy, particularly in the midst of a war against terrorists.
Other criticisms of the act were equally irrational, if more disingenuous.
The National Council of La Raza, for example, demagogically suggested the law was “anti-immigrant” as opposed to anti-immigration-law breaker. “This is clearly an anti-immigrant bill that’s going to have a very harmful impact on the Latino community and all immigrant communities,” Michele Waslin, La Raza’s director of immigration policy research told the Associated Press. “It doesn’t make us one iota safer. Not a single immigrant is going to be returned to his or her home country if they’re denied a driver’s license.”
Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, argued the law was an unfair mandate on states. “[I]f more than half of the governors agree we’re not going down without a fight on this, Congress will have to consider changing” the rules, he told the AP.
The law, however, does not mandate anything on states. Arkansas, if it wants, can give every illegal alien in America the exact same driver’s license it gives legal Arkansas residents. But if it does, when the driver’s license provision of REAL ID takes effect in three years, the federal government will no longer accept Arkansas driver’s licenses for federal purposes, such as boarding a plane or visiting a nuclear power plant.
This law should have been enacted in December, when senators stripped it from the 9/11 Commission bill. It passed this week as part of the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to the persistence of House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.). He deserves three cheers from Americans who want our borders secured.