Real ID: A License to Kill

Well, congratulations, America, you finally did it. You finally collapsed into absolute tyranny.

Last week, Congress defended freedom by sneaking the Real ID Act into an $82 billion military spending bill. The Real ID Act establishes a new set of federal standards for all state driver's licenses, creating what some call a 'de facto' national ID card. Ostensibly, this measure will aid Homeland Security in the war against terrorism. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who authored the act, notes that all but one of the September 11th hijackers 'deliberately used valid driver's licenses and state IDs,' because these documents allowed them to 'avoid suspicion' at the airport. 'Real ID would require all states to confirm' that visas are valid for foreign visitors,' Sensenbrenner says. It would also require that 'a foreign visitor's license term ends when the visa expires.'

Which is great. Unless, of course, a foreigner decides to kill Americans the first six months he's here.

Everywhere you look, it seems immigration is in the news these days. As Neil Diamond put it, 'They're coming to America.' Last week, the Washington Times reported that U.S. Border Patrol agents had been ordered not to arrest illegal immigrants in the area of Arizona being monitored by the freelance Minuteman Project'the idea being that an increase in arrests would prove the Minutemen's efficiency. Bill O'Reilly, for one, is incensed about all this. On his May 5, 2005, program, he told the story of a 42-year-old housewife, Mary Nagle, who was murdered by a 29-year-old Guatemalan with an expired visa, who was hired'thanks to a valid California driver's license'to come to her home with a power washing company. 'Now every sane American knows that most illegals are good people,' O'Reilly assured us. But: 'At least 11 million people are living here illegally. And nobody knows how many of them are violent.'

'So Mary Nagle becomes yet another victim of illegal alien killers. She is no less a victim of our government's failure to protect us than all of those who died on 9/11.'


That's what they're selling here, people. Pure, unadulterated fear.

Those opposed to hassle-free, come-and-go-as-you-please immigration often complain that America has 'porous borders.' These borders, we're told, are the root cause of many of our problems. September 11th didn't happen because we've meddled in the Middle East for decades; it happened because people from other countries are present in ours. And our economy isn't hindered by frivolous lawsuits, regulation, and protectionism. God no. It's hindered by damn dirty Indians answering phones for Dell tech support. And bastard Hispanics mowing lawns with a smile.

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

People are going to tell me I'm anti-American for writing this article. They're going to say I'm 'dangerously wrong.' Because, surely, any 'sane American' would jump at the chance to seal those porous borders. Look, I understand why people don't want other people coming here. Cities and suburbs are already crowded. Dream jobs are hard to come by. Income taxes are painful. And multilingualism is a hobby every blue blooded American is within his rights to despise. Gotcha. Fine. Neighborhoods retain the right to not want certain neighbors. I'm down with that.

But if you want to put America first, then listen: The Real ID Act is going to be a pain in your ass'not Mohammed Atta's. If a guy wants to knock down a building, which is illegal, you think a legal document's going to stop him? Why? And what are sealed borders, really, but an abstract excuse to force us to buy state-brand IDs?

About a month ago, my mother'a teacher'went to the DMV, which, in NJ, has already adopted a six-point ID verification system. She wanted to get a new driver's license that day, but the DMV turned her away. It seems her old driver's license bears the short version of her name, while her Social Security card bears the long version'an unacceptable discrepancy in this post-9/11 world. She showed them a pay stub to verify her identity, but somehow that wasn't good enough. Sure, she's a lifelong Jersey resident. And, sure, she happens to work for the government. But how do we know that's not just her cover? How do we know the Board of Ed isn't a front for a terrorist group?

This is just a preview of the fun stuff we have in store. The Real ID Act calls for licenses to be 'machine-readable,' leaving the door wide open for traceable RFID chips. Like red light cameras, authorities could easily use this surveillance technology to fine law-abiding Americans for perfectly reasonable, yet suddenly illegal, activities'like buying a beer or having a wardrobe malfunction. You won't be able to travel without one of these cards. You won't be able to get a job. Hell, you won't really be an American anymore. (Which is why we're lucky Congress stripped out the Real ID provision suspending habeas corpus for non-citizens.)

History begs and pleads with us not to adopt national ID cards. The Bible warns of a time when the 'mark of the beast' will decide who can and cannot do business (which, presumably, includes the things listed in the previous paragraph). The Nazis also serve as a fine example. They rallied a nation in fear of those no good, dirty, rotten Jewish money grubbers, then implemented their own national ID card system, with yellow, six-pointed cards. And now again, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we see this fear of the outsider'the stranger living and working amongst us'informing us to give up freedoms and privacy. Someone's responsible for our problems. Surely it must be them!

Hey, if that's what makes the Real ID Act easy to swallow for you, then, like I said, congratulations. To me, though, it seems like a pretty raw deal.

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Jonathan David Morris writes a weekly column on politics and personal freedoms.  His website is