by Tracie Morales
Latino state lawmakers are supporting the initiatives of 17 states that have issued resolutions this month condemning the Real I.D. Act of 2005 for its lack of funding and the impact they claim it would have on the economy.
States have until May 11, 2008 to implement the law.
States that have passed or introduced legislation in February urging the U.S. Congress to repeal the law or delay its required implementation include Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The law, recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to combat terrorism, was introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.). It establishes national st:andards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards, requiring verification of immigration status.
A resolution by State Rep. Floyd Esquibel (D) urging the federal government to repeal the act and halt its implementation passed the Wyoming House Feb. 5.
Esquibel told Weekly Report the Real ID act, intended to fix immigration issues, fails to do so.
He added that undocumented immigrants are dominant forces in the state’s service and agriculture industry and ID cards could be used to deport these people. The absence of that workforce could cripple its economy, he said.
“I can’t imagine the kind of chaos it’s going to create,” he said. “I don’t know if the economic system could cope with that kind of situation.”
The legislation has been strongly criticized by Latino, immigrant and civil rights organizations nationally.
The Real ID bill does not state specific penalties if states do not comply. However, state-issued driver’s licenses would not be federally recognized, limiting people’s access to multiple services, such as boarding a plane.
Russ Knocke, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, said the department will issue regulations soon, but did not provide specifics. He added that the current system is vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks.
However, opponents have raised concerns of invasion of privacy and identity theft. The act would require states to provide information into a national database.
Esquibel said he is skeptical that provisions such as a nationwide identity tracking system can increase security.
“If you have one system, it would be easy to hack into It,~ he said.
F61ix Ortiz, New York state assemblyman and president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, told Weekly Report that implementing the act would cost much more than the $40 million appropriated by Congress.
In New York alone, it wouid cost about $200 million, he said.
Ortiz said he will introduce a resolution in New York to call for the repeal of the federal bill.
Implementing the law will cost states more than $11 billion overfive years, according to a study conducted by the Natlonal Governors Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
“We represent the state lawmakers, and we are not getting a mandate imposed on us without funding,” Ortiz said. “If you ask most states about the fiscal impact- most would say `no way Jose.’” Hispanic Link.