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A National ID Card is right around the corner

Macon Telegraph | May 13 2005

It's good to know Congress had the men and women of our armed forces in mind when it passed an $82 billion supplemental appropriation to support our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What sane politician could vote against that? However, as Congress is wont to do, there are other little caveats that got added to the bill.

Stuck inside the appropriations bill is the starting gun toward a National Identification Card. Titled the Real ID Act, the new law requires states, not the federal government, to determine if an applicant for a driver's license is in this country legally or not. And while its purpose is to check undocumented aliens, it affects everyone who drives a vehicle or wants to get a state-issued ID card. The federal law supersedes state legislation, which will make many of the driver's license changes passed in the 2005 Georgia Legislature moot. Gov. Sonny Perdue can forget about making the lines shorter at driver's license bureaus, and he will have to dip into the budget to finance the new federal requirements.

To renew driver's licenses, applicants will need:

• Photo ID

• Birth certificate

• Social Security card

• Proof of residency

So far, so good. The onus for producing those documents, rightly or wrongly, lands on drivers' shoulders; however, the state has to verify those documents as being authentic. At present there is no driver's license system in the country that can fulfill the act's requirements. The cost estimate starts at $300 million and goes up from there. States will have to open up information on drivers to other states and DMV personnel will have to have FBI background checks.

The concerns about national security are real. The 9/11 hijackers had 13 driver's licenses and 21 ID cards. Would a better system have prevented the attacks? That can't be answered, but the Real ID Act could produce more than its share of unintended consequences.

For instance, it negates online renewal, at least on the first occasion. Any time savings governors - such as Perdue - were expecting from online access disappeared. The act will have a huge effect on the legal and illegal immigrant population lured here by employment. The hurdle for illegal immigrants is obvious, but even those here legally will have to jump additional hurdles. How do you verify a birth certificate from Canada or Mexico or anywhere else?

It's just like Congress to hide behind the appropriation measure instead of hashing out the license debate in public. While the Real ID Act doesn't dictate a National ID Card, it sure puts the infrastructure in place, on the states' nickel, for future implementation.

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