I posted today an update on my trek to get a driver’s license in this country. Then a friend sent me what was a front page article in USA Today on not being able to get a drivers license and the new ID Act. This article is not just about me, it is about all of us and our country and enlightens me to why I am up against a brick wall. Please read and pass it on. It affects all of us. Maya
Real ID Act blocks some Americans from driver’s
By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY
Strict federal rules aimed at keeping terrorists off planes are blocking some Americans from renewing their driver’s licenses or getting other state-issued IDs.
- By Eliot J. Schechter, for USA TODAYCharles Lust, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., found out his name was changed without his knowledge when he tried to renew his driver’s license in February 2010.
By Eliot J. Schechter, for USA TODAY
Charles Lust, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., found out his name was changed without his knowledge when he tried to renew his driver’s license in February 2010.
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The consequences can be staggering. Without an ID, people cannot change jobs, drive legally, collect Social Security or Medicare, get through airport security or open a bank account.
It’s “a persistent problem across the country,” says Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.
The problems stem from the Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2006 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when terrorists used easily obtained driver’s licenses to carry out their plans.
The law says that by 2013, only IDs from states that require applicants to present proof of citizenship or legal residency will be accepted to board an airplane or enter a federal building. In most states that have begun to comply, that proof means a birth certificate or immigration papers.
The ACLU and others predicted that the law’s documentation requirements would be a burden to many Americans, and the issue becomes more pressing as the deadline nears.
Sometimes birth certificates are incomplete, inaccurate, missing or were never recorded.
When corrections officer Charles Lust, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., tried to renew his driver’s license in February 2010, he was shocked to discover his birth certificate said his name was Bell. A court, establishing paternity when he was 14, changed his name from Lust, his mother’s name, to Bell, his father’s name.
After his driver’s license expired, he couldn’t open a bank account, cash a check or change jobs. He had to make special arrangements to pick up his kids from school because the school requires ID.
“It kind of put my life on hold,” Lust says. He finally got his license in September after the Florida governor’s office granted an exception.
Bonnie Cohen, a paralegal at the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County who helped Lust, says her office has handled more than a dozen similar cases this year, most of them elderly minorities born in rural parts of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Their records were lost or damaged in natural disasters, birth certificates were never issued or they were issued with errors, and some people were raised under a different name than what’s on the birth certificate.
Sixteen states have passed laws opposing compliance with Real ID, according to theNational Conference of State Legislatures. The Department of Homeland Security, acknowledging that the law’s documentation requirements are burdensome and cause privacy concerns, has several times delayed the deadline for states to comply.
The National Governors Association calls the Real ID Act “unworkable” in its current form. The National Conference of State Legislatures has lobbied for its repeal.
Proving a person’s identity without a valid birth certificate can mean digging up alternate documentation, such as school records, going to court for a name change and sometimes fingerprinting to avoid fraud, says Monica Vigues-Pitan, advocacy director at Legal Services of Greater Miami. She has had 15 cases this year.
Bonnie Sarkar of Colorado Legal Services has helped 20 clients obtain IDs this year and has 10 cases pending, most of them involving elderly and poor people. “Elderly people often have this weird sense of shame about it because they don’t want people to know,” she says.
Tom Theisen of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego has a homeless client in poor health who has a Texas birth certificate and school records from the 1940s, but he cannot remember his Social Security number. He’s stuck in a Catch-22: California law requires a Social Security number to issue an ID, and the Social Security Administration requires a state-issued picture ID before disclosing the number. That means the man cannot claim Medicare, cannot get health care and is unable to collect $845 a month due him from Social Security.
“I understand the concern about undocumented people in this country,” Theisen says. “I think there’s been an overreaction.”