Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Real ID Act a 'Mishmash of Policies'

In an editorial today, The Washington Post calls the Real ID Act a "mishmash of policies." And there are a number of Latino organizations that don't like it either. A group wrote a letter to President Bush recently stating that "comprehensive immigration reform is needed to address the root causes of undocumented immigration, to save lives along the border, and to provide U.S. employers with a legal workforce. In addition, the nation will be safer if we enforce our immigration laws fairly and provide all of our residents with due process of law."

In the Feb. 7, 2005 letter, the National Council of La Raza, League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund expressed their "strong opposition" to the Real ID Act.

"If enacted, the (Rep.) Sensenbrenner legislation will have a profound, negative impact on Latinos and other immigrant communities. It will not make Americans safer and, in fact, may make us all less safe by driving a wedge between American communities and law enforcement."

Specifically, the organizations want Bush to oppose additional federal immigrant driver's license requirements on states because there's already the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 that lists standards set by the Department of Transportation (one being that documentation is required as proof of identity of an applicant).
"...such requirements would not have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, because the 9/11 hijackers all possessed other valid documents, including passports from their home countries. We strongly believe that, by focusing on driver's license policy as a tool in America's struggle against terror, the proponents of this bill are misleading the American public as to what will advance our security interests. We believe this to be a costly, harmful mistake. Access to driver's licenses is a priority issue for the Latino community, and the ability to prove one's identity and lawfully operate a motor vehicle is crucial for all Americans. Public safety improves when all drivers are properly licensed and insured, and national security improves when individuals have valid identification documents."
The Real ID Act also calls for building fences along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the Feb. 7 letter to Bush, the existing fence near San Diego cost about $3 million per mile to contruct.
"Numerous reports illustrate that this expenditure did not result in a reduction of undocumented migration; it has simply shifted migrants out of the San Diego area to Arizona. Apprehensions in Arizona have skyrocketed over the last decade, as have border deaths. More than 2,000 migrants have died in transit since 1997 according to the government's own statistics. Since the implementation of Operation Gatekeeper and Hold the Line, migrants have been forced to cross the border in more remote and dangerous areas, and have increasingly relied on human smugglers, causing an increase in injury and death as well as criminal activity and violence. Additionally, at a time when we need to build cooperative relationships with our hemispheric partners in order to prevent future terrorist attacks, the symbolism of establishing a fence between ourselves and our neighbors is particularly troublesome."
The Real ID Act also includes asylum-related provisions. In other words, those fleeing persecution can't seek asylum in the United States. The letter also stated: "These provisions do nothing to make us safer and do great damage to our nation's proud heritage as a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution. Furthermore, the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 included provisions to further study the asylum process. No more changes should be made until this study is completed and Congress has had time to evaluate current law."

A quick "swoosh" of a pen isn't going to solve the country's immigration problems. Senate leaders need to make a huge pot of coffee, sit down, and debate.

After all, we are paying them a pretty good salary--aren't we?

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