The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition


The REAL ID Act, passed in May 2005, imposes certain security standards and issuance procedures on state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards. More controversially, it requires verification of an applicant's immigration status, "background checks" on documents used to prove identity, and the sharing of driver's license database information between states. Opponents of the bill said the bill, with its sweeping language relating to border security, asylum, drivers' licenses, and judicial review of immigration decisions, capitalized on anti-immigrant sentiment and fear.

Potential Expansion of REAL ID Act (2007)

Provisions of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 would have required all employers to verify both the identity and the employment eligibility of all potential employees under the requirements of the REAL ID Act. However, most states have stated that they will not comply with the REAL ID Act, due to its outrageously high costs and administrative burdens. As a result, Americans living in such states would have not been able to legally obtain new jobs in 2013 unless they obtain a passport (currently costing $97).

REAL ID Act Implementation by States

Citing administrative burdens and civil rights and civil liberties concerns, several state legislatures openly oppose implementation of the REAL ID Act and either passed legislation to counter it or are considering such measures. Portions of the Real ID Act pertaining to states were originally scheduled to take effect in May 2008, but the deadline has been extended twice in hopes of gaining more support from states. The current deadline is in 2011.

Efforts to Repeal the REAL ID Act

Enacted with no hearings, with minimal debate, and rushed through Congress as part of an unrelated emergency appropriations measure, the REAL ID Act mandates drastic and expensive changes to the manner in which states produce drivers' licenses and other forms of ID. Critics of the REAL ID Act believe that the law must be repealed.

Passage of REAL ID Act of 2005

The "REAL ID Act," a package of anti-immigrant provisions, became law on May 11, 2005.

Critics of the bill said it would include several harsh and even unprecedented changes: letting the Secretary of Homeland Security waive any federal law that he thinks might slow down the construction of barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border; making it harder for asylum seekers to prove their claims; causing undocumented immigrants to drive without licenses or insurance; preventing federal courts from reviewing many immigration rulings; and privatizing law enforcement by giving bail bondsmen vast powers - with few safeguards - to arrest immigrants.

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