Baucus, Tester: Keep REAL ID out of immigration reform

Senators introduce amendment striking REAL ID from immigration bill

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester joined forces today to introduce an amendment striking REAL ID from the immigration reform bill currently being debated in the Senate.

The amendment removes provisions from the bill that require employers to check the eligibility of their prospective employees only using identification documents that comply with REAL ID.

Baucus and Tester introduced their amendment to prevent the controversial REAL ID Act from expanding.  The measure already has bipartisan support.  

REAL ID requires states to standardize their driver's licenses and build costly new databases that the federal government can access, essentially creating a national ID system.  Earlier this year, the Montana Legislature unanimously passed legislation refusing to implement the program because it invades privacy and can expose private information to identity thieves, and because of its enormous cost.

"If the right to be let alone is the beginning of all freedom, then REAL ID is a step toward the end.  REAL ID does nothing but cause headaches. It's expensive and could expose Montanans' personal information to terrorists or identity thieves," Baucus said.  "I will always continue to fight for increased law enforcement funding.  But I will not support a law that ties state officials' hands with more government bureaucracy. REAL ID is an $11 billion unfunded mandate that violates Americans' privacy, and could hurt our nation's security."

Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a staunch supporter of privacy rights, said REAL ID isn't needed to toughen national security.

"Including REAL ID in this bill is a disaster for the privacy and freedoms that make Montana and America great," Tester said. "Beyond that, it will be harder to hire folks and it will be more expensive to hire them.  We need to crack down on employers who hire illegal workers, not make it tougher on businesses that follow the rules."

Baucus and Tester cited several other reasons for their amendment:

  • Employers     don't need REAL ID to verify the eligibility of their employees.      They currently check eligibility using existing documents, such as birth     certificates or passports.
  • More     and more states are rejecting the REAL ID Act.  Fifteen other states     in addition to Montana     have enacted legislation opposing or refusing to implement the program.
  • The     immigration bill only authorizes $1.5 billion for REAL ID, although     estimates put the actual cost for states as high as $24 billion.

Cosponsors of Baucus' and Tester's REAL ID amendment include Senators John Sununu, R-N.H., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Susan Collins, R-Maine.