Every day TSA screeners at airports around the country are tasked with determining whether people are allowed to board airplanes. One thing TSA agents look for is a valid form of identification, usually a driver's license. After it was determined that the 19 9/11 terrorists had nearly 30 driver's licenses between them, each with varying information, the 9/11 Commission recommended some license standardization amongst the states. From this came the REAL ID Act, which, among other things, requires states to clearly denote on a driver's license if a person is barred from using it for federal purposes such as boarding airplanes or entering government buildings. States that issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens are required to make the license different from a standard license so that TSA officers and security guards at government buildings can easily determine that the holder must be stopped.
The REAL ID Act allows states some freedom in how they differentiate between a regular driver's license and one that is not valid for federal purposes. Advocates of illegal immigration have been working hard to demand that states make the licenses given to illegal aliens look almost identical to the licenses given to legal residents, even though it increases the odds that a security officer will miss the denotation and allow an unauthorized and possibly dangerous person to slip through security. These groups and some politicians have concluded that helping illegal aliens hide their lawlessness is more important that preventing another 9/11.
It has just been revealed that the Department of Homeland Security has determined that a pro-amnesty activist group and the California legislature have threatened public safety by creating a driver's license for illegal aliens that does not conform to the REAL ID standards. All four passenger jets involved in the 9/11 attack were bound for California and many Californians lost their lives, making the state's move quite disturbing. Though California has not released an image of the rejected license, I created a rendering based the plan as reported by the media. Can you spot the difference? One of the following cards would be valid for boarding a passenger jet, and one would not be.
The only difference between these two licenses is the small, blue text in front of the red number at the top of the card. The blue "DP" was to stand for "Driving Privilege" — a new category created by California for illegal aliens — while "DL" is the standard "Driver's License" that currently appears on the licenses of legal residents. Reportedly the back of the illegal alien license was to include a note that that card was not to be used for federal purposes, but it is unclear exactly what was decided on by the legislature. Thankfully, DHS concluded that California's effort to interpret REAL ID as narrowly as possible and make the job of security officers more difficult was a threat to public safety and had to be stopped.
During a radio debate I participated in with a NPR station in Southern California, the executive director for Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) admitted her organization played a role in creating the license, stating "we designed" it — an interesting admission in that it is questionable whether the state of California should be working with radical activist groups when it comes to issues of public safety. It's unclear whether other groups had any say in the look of the proposed licenses, but one must ask whether families of 9/11 victims were included in the discussion, and if not, why not? It is likely they would have much to say about whether licenses for illegal aliens should be clearly denoted, yet there is no evidence they were included in the discussion. CHIRLA is not run by experts on national security or licensing; they are simply an activist group with demands. Now that CHIRLA has given bad advice to Sacramento and gotten the state in trouble with DHS, perhaps their thoughts on such matters will not be sought by policymakers in the future.
Advocates of giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens claim that the identity contained on the cards is legitimate because illegal aliens have to present certain documents to the DMV before obtaining a California license. While it remains unclear what California will require, the documents that one can use to get a license as an illegal alien in other states usually include entirely unverifiable documents like Mexico's matricula consular, an ID card issued by the government of Mexico to its citizens living in the United States (usually illegally). There is no central database for these cards, most records are on paper, and the U.S. government has no access to them. For these reasons and others the FBI has testified before Congress against their use for identification purposes, but they will likely be the main source of identity used by illegal aliens in California's DMV offices.
There are easy ways to make IDs look different if California decides that public safety is important. Many states have colored bars across the front of such cards with the words "NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION" written in them. Other states also orient the IDs vertically, which really helps to differentiate from regular licenses. Pro-illegal immigration groups oppose these measures because they fear illegal aliens will be treated differently than those who are here legally. Of course, illegal aliens are supposed to be treated differently — they're to be deported in accordance with federal law.
It is troubling that groups like CHIRLA and a majority of California legislators are more concerned about helping illegal aliens shield their lawlessness than they are about preventing Americans from being flown into skyscrapers. The fact that the legislature didn't work to make it obvious that the IDs are not for federal purposes is a clear indicator that California politicians aren't taking the REAL ID Act seriously and seek to return us to a pre-9/11 mentality.
Despite this threat to public safety that even the Obama administration found too problematic, the open-border group CHIRLA is stomping its feet and declaring, "Right now, we're not willing to accept any changes." For this group and many California legislators, helping illegal aliens violate our nation's laws is more important than keeping a terrorist off your next flight.
Perhaps it is time for Congress to step up and tighten the REAL ID standards so that problems like this aren't left to the Obama administration to correct. Perhaps the easiest solution would be for Congress to simply ban states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens.
UPDATE: DHS has approved a more distinctive version of the license.