LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Senate is expected this week to affirm the anti-privacy, anti-asylum, anti-property rights bill known as Real ID attached to an appropriations measure to fund the war in Iraq and tsunami relief. The ACLU of Southern California soundly opposes Real ID.
The House of Representatives approved the controversial measure last week. By all accounts its passage in the Senate is imminent and the Real ID Act will likely be enacted without being scrutinized in any hearings or debate.
"It is a terribly disappointing measure and a blow to all of our rights," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. "This sweeping legislation rolls back asylum laws, attacks immigrants and sets the stage for a national ID. Congress is remiss in its duty to slip such major changes to immigration laws into a funding bill for the military without debate or discussion."
Real ID denies the persecuted safe haven and places undue burdens on permanent residents and citizens alike. Because the House sent the Real ID Act to the Senate as part of a "must pass" appropriations measure for the war in Iraq and tsunami relief, Congress failed to carefully consider and review its provisions.
The act violates the spirit of international law by allowing government officials to demand asylum seekers to obtain written "corroboration" from the very governments or militant groups who persecuted them.
"The Real ID Act will unnecessarily harm immigrants," said Ranjana Natarajan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "Refugees will be sent home to face persecution and torture because of this law. In some cases the act would even eliminate the right of people facing deportation to have the court review their case."
Real ID will also standardize the information collected by all 50 states for driver's licenses and requires states to link their databases together for the mutual sharing of data from IDs. This will create a single national database, which has its own inherent security risks, and transforms licenses into national identity documents. The unfunded legislation will also make roads less safe by barring undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses, something 11 states have allowed in the name of public safety.
"Despite deep public opposition over the years to a national identity card, and Congress's unwillingness to even consider the idea directly, our security agencies have now gotten what they want as proponents have succeeded in pushing through Congress a thinly disguised national ID," Ripston said.