Tuesday, January 15, 2008

REAL ID and reality

As you may know, Tennessee is among 17 states pushing back on a federal deadline regarding the incorporation of READ ID Act standards into drivers licenses. The deadline is May of this year. Several major news orgs have recently picked up the story and headlined a threat made from Homeland Security chief Chertoff regarding long lines at the airport should our licenses not pass muster in May.

So, what's holding this up here in TN? Is it resistance against the forces of the coming mark of the beast; is it pressure from the ACLU; or is it panic over how to handle a burgeoning illegal alien population who will not be able to get phony ID anymore? After all, the National Council of La Raza seems to be upset about it:
The fight against the REAL ID Act is not over, and NCLR continues to work hard to challenge the new law and make its implementation as harmless as possible.
Emphasis NOT added. What about the state of TN? Here's a state spokesperson:
"In the forthcoming weeks the Department of Safety will conduct a detailed review of the final rules in order to fully evaluate the impact REAL ID implementation will have on the citizens of the state of Tennessee," Department of Safety spokeswoman Laura McPherson said. "We will examine options that enable us to provide services that balance homeland security concerns with public safety practices as efficiently as possible."
In other words, they are blaming cost. It will cost more, but they've known about it for years. Are we to believe that the state government made a New Years resolution to be more fiscally conservative in 2008 or are we getting a smokescreen?

Tennessee has had a shadowy recent history with drivers licenses. Personally, I can vividly recall going to the DL station on Summer Avenue here in Memphis to renew my card and seeing what looked to be construction contractors shepherding what looked to be illegal aliens through the process.

That was before 9/11. Then they changed. And changed again. Somewhere along the way a DMV supervisor was murdered here in Memphis after being charged with selling licenses to middle easterners. That case appears about as close to being solved as the anthrax letters attack. We could do better, but that doesn't mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

In reality, the REAL ID Act exemplifies the unfortunate nexus between terrorism and illegal immigration here in America. There is no question a tighter security network would make it harder to defraud the system, commit terrorist acts, or vote illegally. There is also no question such a database would put a hurt on illegal immigrants and those who employ them. But the trade-offs are not trivial.

Human nature being human, there is no such thing as 'tamper proof ID' (and do we really want to live in that world anyway?)--fraud and abuse will eventually work into any human-designed system. Money talks as loud today as it did in Pharaoh's time. And once a system is in place it's hard to remove it. What to do?

Other TN bloggers are wary as am I, mainly as this relates to the future our kids and grandkids will inherit. That said, doing nothing seems irresponsible as well. My jury is still out until we see what the state legislature proposes in response.

MORE 1/16/08

Reader and blogger Mick Wright points me to the TN legislature's response on this matter, issued last summer when they took up the TN Senate's resolution to oppose the enactment of REAL ID. My parting thought was in reference to whether they might blink as the May deadline nears. Not sure they want to play that political game with the state's airline passengers, but at the same time, there are just so many illegals living here they can't be ignored, either. An interesting game of chicken, eh?

Tennessee seems to be hoping its residents will overlook the illegal alien angle and think only about the coming mark of the beast or looming national ID card, which has its own merit, and they may well do so. But all of this ties directly to the previous brouhaha with our own two-tiered system (since scrapped) along with all these stories we've seen lately about various east coast governors wanting to hand out semi-legitimate licenses to the workers doing the jobs Americans won't do to get around REAL ID requirements. Who can forget when Hillary stepped into this minefield? Think any other politicos will want to follow?

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