The Obama administration is working to water down the Real ID law after 11 states refused to participate because of the cost.
But that runs counter to an effort by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who has long touted a "forgery-proof" worker ID card, secured with biometric data such as fingerprints.
Schumer, the new chairman of the immigration subcommittee, will lead the effort to craft the Senate's comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation, according to The Los Angeles Times. He called the card the best way to ensure that all workers were authorized.
"The ID will make it easy for employers to avoid undocumented workers, which will allow for tough sanctions against employers who break the law, which will lead to no jobs being available for illegal immigrants, which will stop illegal immigration," Schumer wrote in his 2007 book, "Positively American."
"Once Americans are convinced that we will permanently staunch the flow of illegal immigration, they will be more willing to accept constructing a path toward earned citizenship for those who are already here."
A Schumer aide told the Times that the senator would probably present the worker ID card idea at a hearing this summer on employee verification systems. Schumer plans to hold three hearings on border enforcement this summer -- on future immigrant flows, legalization of illegal immigrants and worker verification -- before introducing a comprehensive bill in the fall, the aide said.
The Real ID law, passed in 2005, calls for giving secure IDs to 245 million Americans by 2017. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wants to substitute the $4 billion program with Pass ID.
The idea is for a cheaper, less stringent ID plan, partly financed by federal grants, according to draft legislation that Napolitano’s Senate supporters expect to introduce soon, The Washington Post reports.
Real ID stemmed from the 9/11 Commission’s report. It recommended federal standards for driver’s licenses and birth certificates, stating, “For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons."
Eighteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers garnered state IDs to facilitate their travel in the U.S.
The Bush administration had trouble putting the law in force amid opposition from states and privacy advocates. Eleven states have refused to participate in Real ID.
The new rule comes after months of talks with the National Governors Association.
"If the law cannot be implemented, it is hard to claim that it increases security," David Quam, a lobbyist for the NGA, told The Post.
The new plan maintains some features of Real ID, such as requiring a digital photograph, signature and machine-readable features.
But it drops a requirement for new databases -- linked through a national hub -- that would allow all states to keep and cross-check such information.
Pass ID also eliminates a rule that motor vehicle departments must verify birth certificates with originating agencies to prevent identity theft.
Critics say the changes jeopardize our safety. "Real ID, not a gutted version with a tough-sounding name, is necessary to continue to keep us safe," Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.), the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, tells The Post.
"Any attempt to repeal or weaken [Real ID] will harm national security."
A blog by Daniel McCarthy on The American Conservative’s web site opposes any ID plan. “This is typical of how liberties get chipped away,” he writes.
“When the public in the states rallies against assaults on privacy, the security apparatus in D.C. switches tracks to implement its wish-list piecemeal. We’ll see whether the feds succeed in undercutting the grassroots revolt in the states.”
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