The Heritage Foundation’s “The Foundry” blog has a post up called “Questions for Secretary Napolitano: Real ID.”
Honest advocates on two sides of an issue can come to almost perfectly opposite views, and this provides an example, because I find the post confused, wrong, or misleading in nearly every respect.
Let’s give it a brief fisking. Below, the language from the post is in italics, and my comments are in roman text:
Does the Obama Administration support the implementation of the Real ID Act?
(Hope not . . . .)
Congress has passed two bills that set Real ID standards for driver’s licenses in all U.S. jurisdictions.
REAL ID was a federal law that Congress passed in haste as an attachment to a military spending bill in early 2005. To me, “REAL ID standards” are the standards in the REAL ID Act. I’m not sure what other bill the post refers to.
Given the legitimate fear of REAL ID creating a federal national ID database, section 547 of the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009 barred the creation of a new federal database or federal access to state databases with the funds in that bill. (Thus, these things will be done with other funds later.)
The Court Security Improvement Act allowed federal judges and Supreme Court Justices to withhold their addresses from the REAL ID database system, evidently because the courts don’t believe the databases would be secure.
And in the last Congress, bills were introduced to repeal REAL ID in both the House and Senate. Congress has been backing away from REAL ID since it was rammed through, with Senators like Joe Lieberman (I-CT) calling REAL ID unworkable.
It’s unclear what the import of the sentence is, but if it’s trying to convey that there is a settled consensus around the REAL ID law, that is not supported by its treatment in Congress.
The Real ID legislation does not create a federal identification card, but it does set minimum security standards for driver’s licenses.
This sentence is correct, but deceptive.
REAL ID sets federal standards for state identification cards and drivers’ licenses, refusing them federal acceptance if they don’t meet these standards. Among those standards is uniformity in the data elements and a nationally standardized machine readable technology. Interoperable databases and easily scanned cards mean that state-issued cards would be the functional equivalent of a federally issued card.
People won’t be fooled if their national ID cards have the flags of their home states on them. When I testified to the Michigan legislature in 2007, I parodied the argument that a state-issued card is not a national ID card: “My car didn’t hit you — the bumper did!”
All states have either agreed to comply with these standards or have applied for an extension of the deadline.
It’s true that all states have either moved toward complying or not, but that’s not very informative. What matters is that a dozen states have passed legislation barring their own participation in the national ID plan. A couple of states received deadline extensions from the Department of Homeland Security despite refusing to ask for them. Things are not going well for REAL ID.
Secure identification cards will make fraudulent documents more difficult to obtain and will also simplify employers’ efforts to check documents when verifying employer eligibility.
It’s true that REAL ID would make it a little bit harder to get – or actually to use – fraudulent documents, because it would add some very expensive checks into the processes states use when they issue cards.
It’s not secure identification cards that make fraudulent documents harder to obtain – the author of this post has the security problems jumbled. But, worse, he or she excludes mentioning that a national ID makes it more valuable to use fraudulent documents. When a thing is made harder to do, but proportionally more valuable to do, you’ll see more of it. REAL ID is not a recipe for a secure identity system; it’s a recipe for a more expensive and invasive, but less secure identity system.
Speaking of invasive, this sentence is a confession that REAL ID is meant to facilitate background checks on American workers before they can work. This is a process I wrote about in a paper subtitled “Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration.” The dream of easy federal background checks on all American workers will never materialize, and we wouldn’t want that power in the hands of the federal government even if we could have it.
Real ID is a sensible protection against identify fraud.
The Department of Homeland Security’s own economic analysis of REAL ID noted that only 28% of all reported incidents of identity theft in 2005 required the presentation of an identification document like a driver’s license. And it said REAL ID would reduce those frauds “only to the extent that the [REAL ID] rulemaking leads to incidental and required use of REAL ID documents in everyday transactions, which is an impact that also depends on decisions made by State and local governments and the private sector.”
Translation: REAL ID would have a small, but speculative effect on identity fraud.
Congress is set to introduce legislation next week that could largely repeal the Real ID.
The bill I’ve seen is structured just like REAL ID was, and it requires states to create a national ID just like REAL ID did. REAL ID is dying, but the bill would revive REAL ID, trying to give it a different name.
Some groups oppose this version of REAL ID because it takes longer to drive all Americans into a national ID system and frustrates their plans to do background checks on all American workers. But it’s still the REAL ID Act’s basic plan for a national ID.
The Administration should put pressure on Congress to ensure that this legislation does not effectively eliminate the Real ID standards.
Why the administration would pressure Congress to maintain the national ID law in place – by any name – is beyond me. REAL ID is unworkable, unwanted, and unfixable.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed legislation as Arizona’s governor to reject the REAL ID Act. Her predecessor at DHS, Michael Chertoff, talked tough about implementing the law but came up just shy of lighting the paper bag in which he left it on Napolitano’s doorstep.
The REAL ID revival bill that is being so widely discussed is likely to be both the national ID plan that so many states have already rejected and deeply unsatisfying to the anti-immigrant crowd. Congress rarely fails to grasp a lose-lose opportunity like this, so I expect it will be introduced and to see it’s sponsors award themselves a great deal of self-congratulations for their courageous work. You can expect that to receive a fisking here too.