MCLU Disappointed in Legal Status Compromise

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
April 16, 2008 12:00 am

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Applauds Legislature’s Resounding Rejection of REAL ID

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AUGUSTA – The Maine Civil Liberties Union today expressed disappointment in the enactment of LD 2039. The final bill requires the Secretary of State to enact regulations requiring driver’s license applicants to demonstrate a “legal presence” in order to obtain a license.

At the same time, lawmakers removed the funding for the new law. The debate in the Legislature was lengthy and heated as an “ought not to pass” motion lost by only a single vote in the House of Representatives Wednesday.

“We applaud the Legislature’s recognition that the Department of Homeland Security demands threaten civil rights and are an unfunded mandate,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the MCLU. “While the Legislature made a bad bill better, unfortunately this law will drive some immigrants further into the shadows.”

LD 2039 had been introduced by Gov. John Baldacci in response to threats by the Department of Homeland Security to force changes in Maine’s driver’s license system, or place barriers for state residents traveling after May 11.

But most legislators in Wednesday’s debate are still unhappy with REAL ID program, a controversial DHS mandate to turn drivers’ licenses into a national identity card. Many lawmakers are concerned with the privacy implications of REAL ID, which would create a centralized data base system.

Many legislators objected to the fact that Maine was singled out by DHS to add the legal status requirements to its drivers’ license process, even though DHS granted the required waiver to five other states who do not have legal status requirements.

“The legal status requirements pushed on us by the feds violate our civil rights while doing nothing to make us any safer,” said Bellows. “For DHS to have singled out Maine in this way was an extraordinary abuse of power.”

A Congressional Research Service report released earlier this week questions the constitutionality of the Real ID and the constitutionality of a federal agency requiring a state legislature to pass legislation. Legislation at the national level is pending to repeal the REAL ID. On the Senate side, Senator Daniel Akaka has been joined by Senator John Sununu (R-NH), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in promoting S. 717. On the House side, Maine Congressman Tom Allen has been joined by 34 co-sponsors on H.R.1117 to repeal the REAL ID and replace it with the joint rulemaking procedures for drivers’ license standards advocated by the 9/11 Commission.

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