2005 February 11 Friday
Real ID Act On Terrorist Travel Passes House

The REAL ID Act (H.R.418), was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to revive the terrorist travel provisions that were stripped from the 9/11 intelligence reform bill to get the 9/11 bill passed by the US Senate. The REAL ID Act has just passed in the House of Representatives in a 261 to 161 vote.

House Republicans approved a package of immigration-control measures yesterday that would make deportation easier, make political asylum tougher and exempt the federal government from environmental laws in building roads and barriers along U.S. borders.

The bill -- touted as a major anti-terrorism initiative -- is aimed at making it easier for authorities to keep illegal immigrants out, track down those in the country and hinder their travel. The measure would impose new requirements on states to seek proof of applicants' legal residence in issuing driver's licenses.

Only 8 Republicans voted against it and only 42 Democrats voted for it. House Republicans continue to be the biggest supporters of real immigration law enforcement, especially measures to make it more difficult for terrorists to enter and operate in the United States.

States would be required to collect and maintain electronic copies of documents that prove immigration status.

States would be required to demand proof of the person's Social Security number and confirm that number with the Social Security Administration. They would also have to scan in documents showing the person's date of birth and immigration status, and create a massive store "so that the (scanned) images can be retained in electronic storage in a transferable format" permanently.

The REAL ID Act would make acquisition of a drlvers license more difficult for illegal aliens.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's Real ID Act would force states to stop issuing licenses to illegal immigrants. Utah is one of 11 states that don't require proof of legal residency.

My guess is that some illegals would buy fake birth certificates and other fake documentation to present as documents when applying for drivers licenses. But the Real ID Act would reduce the number of illegals getting drivers licenses and other documentation. So the Act would raise the level of difficulty for living in the United States illegally and increase the odds of getting caught by law enforcement officers.

Sensenbrenner makes the case for the Real ID Act.

Chairman Sensenbrenner stated, “The goal of the Real ID Act is straightforward: it seeks to prevent another 9/11-type attack by disrupting terrorist travel. First, this legislation does not try to set state policy for who may or may not drive a car, but it does address the use of a driver’s license as a form of identification to a federal official. American citizens have the right to know who is in their country, that people are who they say they are, and that the name on a driver’s license is the holder’s real name, not some alias.

“The 9/11 hijackers could have used their passports to board the planes, but only one did. Why? Those murderers chose our driver’s licenses and state ID’s as their forms of identification because these documents allowed them to blend in and not raise suspicion or concern. Mohammed Atta received a 6-month visa to stay in the U.S. yet received a Florida driver’s license good for 6 years!

“The Real ID Act will end this by establishing a uniform rule for all states that temporary driver’s licenses for foreign visitors expire when their visa terms expire, and establishing tough rules for confirming identity before temporary driver’s licenses are issued.

“The Real ID Act tightens our asylum system that has been abused by terrorists with deadly consequences. It will finish the 3-mile hole in the fortified U.S./Mexico fence near San Diego. And it will protect the American people by ensuring that all terrorism-related grounds for inadmissability are also grounds for deportation.

One can argue that the Real ID Act will not make it impossible for terrorists to get into the US or to operate here. Of course. But the Act puts up obstacles that make it harder for terrorists to operate. While some terrorists are fairly bright others are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Set up some hoops for them to have to hop through and at least some of them will get tripped up. They will need to solve more different problems to carry out a terrorist attack. They will need more training and more coordination and more brains.

House Republicans are looking for ways to force the bill through the US Senate where some leading Republicans want to attach the bill to an amnesty or worker permit plan for Mexican illegal aliens.

In hopes of forcing the Senate to act on the bill, House Republican leaders intend to roll it into the first must-pass legislation of the year, likely to be the supplemental funding for the war in Iraq. That move could set up a confrontation with Senate GOP leaders, who have said they don't want to load the Iraq bill with extra measures.

Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies testified to Congress that large scale violations of immigration laws creates conditions ideal for terrorists.

Tolerating illegal immigration facilitates terrorism. Of course, vast majority of aliens who violate immigration laws are not terrorists. However, allowing a large illegal population to reside in the United States facilitates terrorism for two reasons. First, it has created a large underground industry that furnishes illegals with fraudulent identities and documents that terrorists can (and have) tapped into. Several of the 9/11 terrorists were assisted in getting their Virginia driver's licenses from someone who specialized in helping run-of-the-mill illegal aliens obtain them. Second, the existence of a huge illegal population creates a general contempt or disregard for immigration law. Although the general public may still want the law enforced, the scale of illegal immigration creates a tacit acceptance by law enforcement, policymakers, and even immigration-enforcement personnel themselves. With millions of illegal immigrants already in the country, and with immigration laws widely flouted, it is perhaps easy to understand why the immigration inspector at Miami's airport allowed Mohammed Atta back into the country in January 2001 even though he had overstayed his visa on his last visit and had abandoned his application to change status to vocational student by leaving the country.

This is basically the "Broken Windows" argument for law enforcement applied to the threat from terrorism.

A thriving black market for illegal alien IDs is helpful for terrorists.

In general, banks allow those with visitor visas to open checking accounts if they have a driver's license. (Since Atta did not receive his license until May 2001, he apparently was able to open his account without one.) Getting an American driver's license is helpful not only in opening bank accounts but also facilitates the renting of motor vehicles and small aircraft, holding a job, buying ammunition, accessing government archives, and of course, boarding commercial airplanes. Atta and al Shehhi received their driver's licenses from Florida in May 2001 despite the fact that Atta had been stopped for driving without a license a few months earlier in the state. According to the Washington Post, at least eight other 9/11 terrorists obtained Virginia licenses illegally.9 Virginia was used by the terrorists because prior to 9/11 the requirement for obtaining a license in that state was one of the weakest in the nation. There is little question that the ability to obtain what has become our nation's de facto national ID — a U.S. driver's license — was very important to the 9/11 hijackers and for this reason many of them went to the trouble of obtaining them.

Some of the 9/11 hijackers got help from Hispanic immigrants in getting drivers licenses.

Coverage of problems associated with illegal-immigrant access to state driver licenses and other documents used to establish false identity or avoid detection has also been remiss. According to authorities, many of the hijackers obtained multiple state driver licenses, using them to blend into society or to bolster false identities that made them difficult for law enforcement to identify or track. (Virginia, where a robust black market in licenses and official ID cards has flourished for at least four years, was a particularly easy mark — seven hijackers got identification documents there, courtesy of a network of corrupt lawyers and notaries public, as well as Latin American immigrants who knew the ropes and offered facilitation services.)9 Yet when the subject of illegal-alien access to driver licenses got any press attention at all, most analyses presented it favorably, as a way for illegals to connect to mainstream society and economic opportunity, and as a way for them to feel more “personal independence.”

Visa overstayers who must present their drivers license IDs to fly or because of a traffic violation could be caught up and deported under the Real ID Act.

Lack of coordination between state and local police and federal immigration authorities is another major shortcoming. In the normal course of their work, police frequently encounter aliens. For instance, Mohammed Atta was ticketed in Broward County, Florida, in the spring of 2001 for driving without a license. But the officer had no mechanism to inform him that Atta had overstayed his visa during his prior trip to the United States. Although not an overstayer, another hijacker, Ziad Samir Jarrah, was issued a speeding ticket in Maryland just two days before 9/11, proving that even the most effective terrorists have run afoul of the law before launching their attacks.

My guess is that some terrorists could choose to present their passport rather than an expired drivers license when boarding an airplane since obviously legitimate foreign tourist visitors who do not have US drivers licenses will have to be able to offer up their passports as ID. Also, a terrorist pulled over for speeding could just say they forgot their drivers license rather than show an expired license. But eventually biometric databases will defeat these attempts to present incriminating forms of ID. Cops could scan the eyes or handprints of a person pulled over for a moving violation and get back ID information that shows the person has overstayed a visa.

On the practicality of immigration law enforcement in the interior of the United States see from the Center for Immigration Studies the articles Making Interior Enforcement Work, The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement in Immigration, Can Immigration Law Be Enforced? and Officers Need Backup.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 February 11 12:41 AM  Immigration Law Enforcement

Eugene Marquette said at February 12, 2005 7:00 AM:


Eugene Marquette said at February 12, 2005 7:00 AM:


freedom of information said at February 16, 2005 12:01 AM:

Mr. SENSENBRENNER (for himself, Mr. TOM DAVIS of Virginia, Mr. DREIER, Mr. HUNTER, Mr. HYDE, Mr. HOEKSTRA, Mr. COX, Mr. HOSTETTLER, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. COBLE, Mr. CHABOT, Mr. AKIN, Mr. ALEXANDER, Mr. BACHUS, Mr. BAKER, Mr. BARTON of Texas, Mr. BASS, Mr. BILIRAKIS, Mrs. BLACKBURN, Mr. BLUNT, Mrs. BONO, Mr. BOOZMAN, Mr. BRADLEY of New Hampshire, Mr. BRADY of Texas, Ms. GINNY BROWN-WAITE of Florida, Mr. BURGESS, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. BUYER, Mr. CALVERT, Mr. CAMP, Mr. CANTOR, Mrs. CAPITO, Mr. CARTER, Mr. CHOCOLA, Mr. CRENSHAW, Mrs. CUBIN, Mr. CULBERSON, Mr. CUNNINGHAM, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, Mrs. JO ANN DAVIS of Virginia, Mr. DAVIS of Tennessee, Mr. DEAL of Georgia, Mr. DOOLITTLE, Mr. DUNCAN, Mrs. EMERSON, Mr. EVERETT, Mr. FEENEY, Mr. FOLEY, Mr. FORBES, Mr. FOSSELLA, Ms. FOXX, Mr. GALLEGLY, Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey, Mr. GILLMOR, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GOHMERT, Mr. GOODE, Mr. GOODLATTE, Mr. GREEN of Wisconsin, Mr. GUTKNECHT, Ms. HART, Mr. HAYWORTH, Mr. HENSARLING, Mr. HERGER, Mr. ISSA, Mr. ISTOOK, Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. KELLER, Mr. KENNEDY of Minnesota, Mr. KING of Iowa, Mr. KINGSTON, Mr. KLINE, Mr. LEWIS of California, Mr. LEWIS of Kentucky, Mr. LINDER, Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California, Mr. MCCAUL of Texas, Mr. MCCRERY, Mr. MCHUGH, Mr. MCKEON, Mr. MANZULLO, Mr. MILLER of Florida, Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. NEUGEBAUER, Mrs. NORTHUP, Mr. NORWOOD, Mr. NUNES, Mr. OSBORNE, Mr. OTTER, Mr. PITTS, Mr. RADANOVICH, Mr. RAMSTAD, Mr. ROGERS of Alabama, Mr. ROGERS of Michigan, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. ROYCE, Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. SHADEGG, Mr. SHAW, Mr. SHUSTER, Mr. SIMPSON, Mr. SOUDER, Mr. STEARNS, Mr. SULLIVAN, Mr. SWEENEY, Mr. TANCREDO, Mr. TURNER, Mr. THOMAS, Mr. WAMP, Mr. WELDON of Florida, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, and Mrs. DRAKE) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Select Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

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