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Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009

Coalition Re-Forms to Battle Real ID

Driver’s certificates would lead to safer roads

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The clock is ticking on the implementation of the Real ID Act in Wisconsin.

The state has until Dec. 31, 2009, to “materially comply” with the federal law that requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to meet new standards and also develop a database that would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to share data with other states. If the state doesn’t comply by the end of this year, Wisconsin driver’s licenses and IDs could not be used to board a commercial flight or enter a federal building.

The law, the brainchild of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls), has been criticized by those who are concerned about the high cost of implementing it (at least $20 million in Wisconsin alone, according to the Department of Transportation), privacy issues, identity theft and the scapegoating of immigrants.

But the newly re-formed Coalition for Safe Roads, which was active in 2005 and 2006 to oppose Real ID, is concerned about the law’s impact on public safety.

Members argue that drivers who are not citizens and don’t have a Social Security number can’t obtain a valid driver’s license under the Real ID Act, so they never learn the rules of the road, take a driving exam and buy insurance. This places unlicensed, untested and uninsured drivers on the roads, posing a safety hazard to other drivers and driving up the cost of insurance for drivers who have coverage.

On Friday, coalition members called on Gov. Jim Doyle to establish driver’s certificates in the state, as Utah has, for those who are not eligible for a state driver’s license. The certificates would not be used for official identification purposes, but they would ensure that all drivers know the proper rules of the road. The Real ID Act allows states to issue driver’s certificates for driving privileges only.

“We need to have all of our drivers licensed,” said Carl Malischke, a coalition member representing the 30-parish-strong Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH).

The coalition—comprised of immigrant-rights group Voces de la Frontera, SEIU Local 1, MICAH, UW-Milwaukee chapter of Students United for Immigrant Rights (SU- FRIR), the Council for the Spanish Speaking and the African Immigrants in Milwaukee Association—traveled to Gov. Doyle’s office on Friday to deliver 2,736 postcards in support of driver’s certificates.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, said that the passage of the Real ID Act has “led to everything we predicted”—increased fraud, a clogged-up court system, increased racial profiling, scams involving international ID cards, and economic hardship for those who need to drive to their job but can’t obtain a valid license. 

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