Friday, February 13, 2009

Real ID Implementation Delayed Until 2010 By DHS

Local Coalition for Safe Roads wants state to issue driving certificates to undocumented immigrants

By H. Nelson Goodson
El Conquistador Newspaper
3206 W. National Ave.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215
February 13, 2009

Milwaukee- On Friday, a local group called Coalition for Safe Roads gathered more than 2,736 postcards from Wisconsin residents asking Governor Jim Doyle to repeal funding for REAL ID. Representatives of the coalition wants Governor Doyle to uphold public safety and fiscal responsibility in the State budget by providing for a drivers' license certificate option available under REAL ID to ensure that drivers' are licensed and insured on our roads and highways, according to both Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director from Voces de la Frontera and Tony Baez, President and CEO of the Spanish Center in Milwaukee. States like Utah and Tennessee are currently issuing drivers' license certificates to undocumented immigrants, said Neumann-Ortiz.
The coalition joined a growing opposition of 21 states to REAL ID, an unfunded mandate, which would cost Wisconsin taxpayers at least $22 million to implement. Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Washington have passed bills forbidding state agencies from complying with Real ID.
The State Department of Transportation (DOT) has yet to determine how much it will actually cost the state to implement the REAL ID law. The DOT estimated the cost between $22 million to $31.9 million through mid-2009, and the state intends to pay the costs primarily with the new driver's license fees, which are expected to generate at least $20.7 million by mid-2009. Despite the DOT’s projected estimates to generate funds through raised license fees, it will still be millions of dollars short.
Members of the coalition headed to Madison on Friday to deliver the postcards to the Governor’s office. The State legislature in anticipation of the REAL ID Act in 2005, passed a state law in March 2006 entitled Act 126. The Act was signed immediately into law by Governor Doyle to secure infrastructure federal funding to fix state highways. The Act 126 bans undocumented immigrants and persons who do not have a social security number from obtaining a driver's license or identification.
State officials have estimated the national costs to states between $4-11 billion over the next five years to implement the technology required by the Real ID Act, which sets new requirements for state licenses and ID cards. States have until 2018 to fully comply with the law. Under the federal REAL ID law, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that states have until December 31, 2009 to begin implementing the law. People born after Dec. 1, 1964, will have to get a new driver's license or identification card by 2014. Those born before that will have until 2017 to get the new card, according to the federal Department of Homeland Security.
On March 2008, State Representative Rich Zipperer wrote in his web site, as part of the 2007 state budget, the state increased drivers’ license fees to cover the cost of enacting the federal REAL ID safety requirements. The Doyle Administration has not implemented the REAL ID safety measures, rather they have asked for an extension to the deadline. All the while, they continue to collect the higher drivers' license fees.
As part of his ‘budget repair bill’, the Governor proposed raiding $5 million from the account funded by the increased REAL ID drivers’ license fees for general spending, rather than implement REAL ID. At the same time, the Governor has missed a March 7th deadline to apply for a federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant for help with implementing REAL ID.
In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the Fiscal Year 2008 REAL ID Demonstration Grant awards totaling nearly $80 million to assist states in improving the security of state-issued driver's licenses (DL) and identification documents (ID). More than $58 million has previously been allocated for state-specific implementation projects that facilitate REAL ID compliance. The department has awarded $17 million to Missouri to lead the development of the verification hub. Four other states, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, and Wisconsin will each receive $1.2 million to partner with Missouri for verification hub testing and implementation, according to DHS.

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