Local Latinos Weigh in on Federal REAL ID Rollout

Published : Monday, August 12, 2019 | 4:59 AM

You can choose either a federal compliant REAL ID driver license/identification card OR a federal non-compliant driver license/identification card.

[Updated] An administrator for the Pasadena-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) says the federal government, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in particular, is now trying to leverage state and local resources in their efforts to identify the undocumented population.

Salvador Sarmiento is immigrant rights director for NDLON. He points to the upcoming REAL ID program as one more government tool to zero in on migrants.

Starting on Oct. 1, 2020, every Californian wanting to fly within the continental United States will need either a passport, or a “federally compliant” state driver’s license, as mandated by the REAL ID Act of 2005. For the undocumented living in our midst, domestic flights may become a thing of the past.

“If you’re here on a visa from another country, you’re able to apply for a REAL ID, because you’re here legally,” explained Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) spokesman Jaime Garza.

“Some people will ask, well, what about these undocumented folks?” he continued. “And the answer is anybody who is undocumented will not able to apply for a REAL ID because they won’t have the necessary documentation. It’s as simple as that.”

To get the federally-compliant license or ID card, even solid-rock residents will have to produce some very specific documents. And they will have to show up at the DMV with those documents in tow.

A non-federally compliant license or ID card can be obtained by filling-out online forms, but choosing that route means the traveler will need a passport to not only board domestic plane flights, but to enter federal facilities (courthouses, relief agencies, hospitals, military bases), as well.

These are provisions of federal legislation passed after the attacks of September 11, 2001, at the recommendation of the 9-11 Commission.

“The Commission said we have to establish some minimum standards for identity verification and security features on the driver’s licenses and identification cards that all 50 states are issuing,” explained Garza. “That’s how the REAL ID was born.”

And now REAL ID’s a teenager, coming of age, making demands.

Garza stressed that the requirements are not DMV’s, but those of the Department of Homeland Security. “We have to provide you the ID because that’s what the federal government has asked us to do,” he explained.

Yunny Parada, co-chair, Pasadena Latino Forum, minimized the potential impact on the undocumented communities of Pasadena.

“Practically, it is the same thing that has happened already,” she said. “Even right now you have to present an ID and the undocumented communities are not documented. That’s a statement of fact. They do not fly very often because of the different impositions that the government has already placed on them.”

Parada said it will be U.S. citizens who will feel REAL ID’s sting the most.

“I think, for documented American citizens, it is an imposition that has not happened before,” she explained. “They need to have an ID, though they are not traveling internationally, that is much different than the one they are presenting now.”

An A.B. 60 driver’s license is issued to those without documentation establishing residency. Those licenses will not be federally compliant nor part of the REAL ID process.

That won’t matter much either, said Parada. Undocumented immigrants have different travel patterns than citizens do. They take the bus and whatever other mode of transportation they can avail themselves of without producing papers.

The same goes for driver’s licenses. “Domestic flights is never an issue when someone’s getting a driver’s license,” said Parada. “They’re are getting it for driving and nothing else.”

Sarmiento noted that some larger states like California and New York have resisted implementing REAL ID. “They are basically saying this is too big a deal for us to become federally compliant,” said Sarmiento.

As a result, the deadline for compliance has been pushed back a number of times, over the years, by the Department of Homeland Security.

Sarmiento said the fear with the noncompliant licenses, from NDLON’s perspective, is that the information surrendered to obtain them will become part of the larger dragnet ICE is attempting to mount, though not without opposition from local authorities.

To learn about REAL ID requirements, visit https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/realid

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