In 2005, after extensive investigation into the attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the REAL ID Act. This act had a provision regarding drivers’ licenses that would make it more difficult for an individual or apply for a state driver’s license without proof of their real identity. The goal of this law was to prevent immigrants who are terrorists, like the 9/11 terrorists, from obtaining driver’s licenses. This would leave them with only a passport and no driver’s license, making them easier for law enforcement to detect.
What effect did this law have in reality? A singling out of Hispanic and Asian immigrants who have no criminal history and who are not terrorists. Yet TSA might stop letting individuals travel with just a driver’s license from these states and will instead require a secondary form of ID to travel.
A disproportionate number of Hispanic and Asian immigrants cannot obtain visas to enter the U.S. legally or have extremely long waits for visas because the U.S. has restricted immigration from their countries. Immigrants of other national origins have vastly greater options to immigrate legally. Hispanics and Asians who have immigrated to the U.S. illegally are largely fleeing gangs, warlords, and extreme poverty. Neither Hispanic nor Asian immigrants were involved in the 9/11 attacks. These immigrants can drive and have passed a driver’s test, but they are banned from getting a REAL ID driver’s license because their national origin prevents them from getting legal immigration status. The REAL ID Act uses something necessary to survival in the U.S. but not related to immigration or terrorism – driving – to single out and deport immigrants from certain countries.
Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington state, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have realized that there is no connection between one’s ability to drive and his or her immigration status. In addition to disproportionately affecting Hispanics and Asians, the REAL ID Act is too great of an invasion of an individual’s privacy and is too large a burden on the state driver services, far outweighing any supposed benefits it has.
There is no definite deadline as to when the Department of Homeland Security will require a second form of ID from individuals from these nine states. It has continuously pushed out the deadline on this policy. For now, it appears that these states are winning the fight against national origin discrimination.