Wade Henderson: “REAL ID Act Won’t Make America Any Safer”

Media 05.3.05

WASHINGTON– The final version of the “REAL ID Act” trickled out of the joint House-Senate conference committee handling emergency funding for our troops in Iraq late yesterday, confirming suspicions that it is completely unrelated to funding our troops in Iraq but will have drastic consequences for the rights of citizens and immigrants alike. In response to the latest incarnation of a bad idea, Wade Henderson, the executive director of the Leadership on Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, issued the following statement:

“Don’t be fooled by rhetoric: the REAL ID Act won’t make America any safer, despite a few changes made at the insistence of concerned Senators. It will drive undocumented immigrants further underground, it will turn away legitimate asylum seekers and it will let the Secretary of Homeland Security disregard almost any law on the books – even civil rights or labor protections. This bill is being forced by the House leadership into law, with no hearings and with little serious study of its consequences.

Supporters claim that the REAL ID Act will speed up the completion of a fence at the U.S. border near San Diego. But the language in the final version of the bill goes far beyond that: it would let the Secretary of Homeland Security ignore any federal or state law in the process, at any border area in the country. Making one person so thoroughly ‘above the law’ is unprecedented – and not what one expects in a civilized democracy.

The REAL ID Act guts the carefully negotiated requirements that became law only half a year ago as part of the intelligence reform bill last year, before they even had a chance to work,” Henderson continued. “The new language under the REAL ID Act will open the door to widespread discrimination, create bureaucratic nightmares, and undermine public safety by increasing the number of unlicensed drivers on our roads.

The asylum provisions will make it harder for people fleeing persecution to prove their claims, without doing anything to make us safer. Indeed, suspected terrorists can already be barred from asylum – so there is little reason to make it harder on everyone else.”

A vote on final passage of the measure could come late this week or early next week, once the House and Senate complete their negotiations on other portions of the military funding bill that the REAL ID has been tacked on to.