Old News Archive

Editorial : REAL ID

October 28, 2006 - TRC

Republicans who continue to tout the "limited government, individual liberty, free trade, and free enterprise" mantra might want to take a good look at the mirror lately. If anything, their intellectual dishonesty makes the Democrats look like the Care Bears in comparison. Their unsurprisingly overwhelming support for H.R. 1268, known as the REAL ID Act of 2005, which was slipped into a much-demanded $82 billion war supplemental bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, is an epitome of that dishonesty.

The bill, which was signed into law by President Bush on May 11, 2005, was met with cheering approval by collectivistic conservative commentators, organizations (like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which urged Congress to attach it to the supplemental bill), Republican congressmen (such as Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. of Wisconsin, the architect of the legislation), and apologists. Other proponents of the new law argued in defense of it, claiming that the law was needed to combat terrorism and illegal immigration running amuck. In response to concerns about long lines, more paperwork, and costlier standards, they claim that "U.S. security" from illegals and terrorists is a necessary evil, and Americans can stomach the wait and the enormous price tag. As Colleen Gilbert, executive director of the New York-based Coalition for a Secure Driver's License (which happened to be one of the lobbyists who pushed for the measure) said, "Waiting an extra 20 minutes in line to make sure your ID is secure—and everyone else's—is well worth it."

Opponents of the new law, including the ACLU and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK), have contended that the policy effectively transforms states into a federalized immigration bureaucracy (thus becoming a legal, political, and constitutional nightmare) and leads the nation onto a path towards a national ID card system. As Gov. Huckabee recently opined to the Associated Press, "If more than half of the governors agree we're not going down without a fight on this, Congress will have to consider changing this unfunded federal mandate." Like the ACLU, he's right on the mark; however, I would go further than that.

Here's the problem with the law. Now that it's in effect, it automatically plants the seeds for a national ID card by coercing states into implementing certain minimum identification standards on state-issued drivers' licenses. This means that the statists have unlimited means to impose anything on the states, including—but not limited to—additional standards. This also means that it transfers more power to the Secretary of Homeland Security, who can then impose unilateral and arbitrary requirements whenever it suits him. The new measure can even enable him to decree biometric information on Ids in the future. Imagine an Orwellian future where your driver's license is equipped with a retina scan, DNA information, or radio frequency technology! Is this an America in which we want to live?

It is also distressing to know that the entire U.S. Senate voted for the bill (100—0), especially when they did not even bother to debate the then-proposed bill on the floor. But it is not a complete surprise altogether. After all, all the collectivistic Democratic and Republican senators were willing to hand over our civil liberties and our human liberty to the Bush administration without hesitation. This just proves that, in the usual scheme of things, Democrats and Republicans have neither any differences nor any redeeming qualities whatsoever. And that includes prominent statist Republicans and Democrats like Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clintary, Ted Kennedy, Trent Lott, Bill Frist, and Jim Talent on the Senate floor.

Proponents of the law even claim that it does not lay down the foundations for a national ID card. But do they really expect us to believe that claptrap? It merely insults our intelligence to begin with. The act converts the states into the arm of the federal government, thereby outfitting them with powers that are necessary to establish a national ID system. Considering that this maneuver clearly constructs a nationalized database of highly sensitive and personal information, it lays the groundwork for a national identification program.

It gets worse. This program will contain your name, phone number, Social Security number, physical characteristics, and other pertinent data. If the government can collect biometric information, it will and can copy methods that the Nazis once employed, such as their method of tattooing ID marks on Jewish adult males for slave labor during World War II.

And it doesn't end there. States are now required to sign up for the "Drivers License Agreement"—a provision in the act for which the U.S. Department of Motor Vehicles lobbied years ago. If any state refuses to cooperate with this new agreement (that is, by opting out), it will forcibly revoke the citizenship of the people in that state, because their ID will be rejected. They will be prohibited from boarding a plane or even taking a train. Furthermore, the government can deny their existence. The claims advanced by those—claims of the program being voluntary—ought to be rejected across the board.

Aside from the fact that this law now re-defines "terrorism" from an arbitrary standpoint (particularly when this is done in broad new ways that could include pro-gun rights groups and anti-abortion groups or any other group as determined by whoever holds the reign of power at the time), the proponents of the law are forgetting two important points. First, the law violates the principles of federalism and the Tenth Amendment. While, technically speaking, states are not coerced into embracing the new federal mandate, any state that refuses to comply can result in local residents losing their jobs, their ability to find a job, their Social Security, or even their ability to travel. In lieu of ordering states to comply with the mandate, the federal government is blackmailing them into accepting it, whether they like it or not.

The second and final is that criminals don't care about the laws of this nation. As with immigration, drug, and gun controls, national ID cards only target law-abiding citizens. It will either create a new black market of illegal immigrants and terrorists sneaking into the country or it will expand the current black market of illegal immigrants who will find any way into the country, no matter what the U.S. Border Patrol agents say and do. Do we really think that a terrorist who is hell-bent on killing more American citizens on our soil is going to abide by the new law—that is, by showing up at the DMV and register for a federal ID card? Do we really think that people—whether they're illegals or not—who thumb their noses at our immigration policy will abide by our new ID standards? In case anyone has been living in a cave, ID cards can be either doctored or stolen or both. Any federal or state agency—even the Secretary of State's office or the DMV—is always prone to corruption. Anyone who believes otherwise needs a reality check; these cards can be obtained and used by violent criminals illegally. More than likely they will not be used at all. Simply put, this system will only track the law-abiding populace, not the thugs.

And to make matters worse, this law can now be used to share information on American citizens with Canada and Mexico. Is this the kind of government that we truly want? Is this the kind of world in which we want to live?

Terrorism will always be an excuse used to increase the power of the federal government over the lives of its citizens. In fact, this tool was long discussed before the 9/11 attacks. For example, in 1996 legislation was introduced in Congress that had provisions nearly identical to the REAL ID Act. Thankfully, angry citizens inundated both Houses of the Congress with irate phone calls, and the bill then became officially dead.

Americans who long to restore the principles of limited government, free enterprise, private property rights, a foreign policy of non-interventionism, individual liberty, private charity, federalism, and the rule of law should work with libertarian and civil libertarian groups to repeal the REAL ID Act. While they're at it, they need to vote out of office the collectivistic statists who are entrenched in the House and the Senate.

If they do, then there will definitely be hope for our nation and for our children as well.

© 2005 by Todd Andrew Barnett. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint any portion of or the entire article is hereby granted, provided that the author's name and credentials are included.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.