Critics question proposal for national ID standards

by Edwin Garcia , San Jose Mercury News


DAVIS – The director of the DMV complained to a federal panel Tuesday
that forcing California to comply with a national standard for driver’s
licenses will be burdensome and cost taxpayers at least a half-billion

Proposed regulations of the so-called REAL ID Act, scheduled to
take effect in about a year, would force every driver in the country to
obtain a new license -a requirement that will eventually require all 23
million California motorists to make a trip to the DMV line.

`Onerous process’

The regulations "could create a very onerous process for the
Department of Motor Vehicles and Californians in general," DMV Director
George Valverde told the U.S. Department of Homeland Security panel
gathered at the University of California-Davis.

Valverde was among dozens of Californians and out-of-state
residents who expressed concerns with the law at a "town hall" style
forum – the federal government’s sole hearing to collect testimony
during the 60-day comment period before proposed regulations can be
written into law.

States must begin to issue compliant licenses and
identification cards by May 11, 2008, and fully implement the program
by May 10, 2013.

Backed by the Sept. 11 commission, adopted by Congress and
signed by President Bush in 2005, REAL ID intends to prevent terrorism
by strengthening the security of licenses and state-issued
identification cards. The law, among other things, requires applicants
to submit specific documents to prove their identity, and compels all
states to print their licenses on similar paper.

The law also allows for states to issue driving-only licenses to illegal immigrants that couldn’t be used to board planes.

More than 150 people attended the meeting, and of the dozens who took to the microphone, most opposed the law or portions of it.

Some worried that REAL ID could lead to a national database and
loss of privacy. Advocates for women’s safety argued stalking victims
would be at risk because licenses will have to show a street address
instead of a post office box. Transgender people said they’re concerned
that the government will dictate to them how they must identify their

"We are very concerned these proposals will jeopardize privacy,"
said Richard Holober, executive director of the San Mateo-based
Consumer Federation of California. "That very act of aggregating
records creates new opportunities for identity theft, and this proposal
will create a potential one-stop-shop for identity thieves."

Richard Barth, assistant secretary for policy development with Homeland
Security, assured Holober that "there’s nothing in the proposed rule
that calls for a federal database."

Geraldine Hill, a Sacramento DMV worker who took the day off to
attend the four-hour meeting, questioned how California could afford
REAL ID implementation, which director Valverde estimated would cost
"upwards of $500 million to $700 million" over a five-year period.

"I’m extremely concerned about the lack of funding when we have
a federal program saying `you will do this but you will also pay for
it,’" Hill said.

Barth said grants can help defray the costs and that driver’s
license applicants would be expected to pay about $20 more to help fund
the implementation.

Protecting women

Beth McGovern, legislative director for the California
Commission on the Status of Women, said some of the confidentiality
programs enacted by the state to protect women from being assaulted and
stalked could be at risk if women are forced to place their home
addresses in databases that could be hacked.

Jonathan Frankel, a member of the Homeland Security Panel, said
"That’s something we’re certainly going to take into consideration"
before the final rules are written.

A REAL ID supporter from New York reminded the audience that
some hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, had obtained driver’s licenses

"It’s very important that we look at REAL ID for what it is
trying to do, and not for the hysterical things that have been
attributed to it," said James Staudenraus of Shelter Island Heights,

Comments aired at the meeting and letters submitted on the topic before
Tuesday will become part of the federal docket on the proposed
regulations. Comments also can be made at