Archive for January 2008

Homeland Secretary Chertoff, the REAL ID, and reality

Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff was at the National Press Club on January 17th,advocating the REAL ID Act. Behind him was a large portrait of the Florida driver’s license issued to Mohammad Atta, a main terrorist of the 9/11 attacks.

The obvious implication is that REAL ID would have prevented the 9/11
attacks by denying Atta a driver’s license, and hence the ability to board a plane. Actually, Mr. Chertoff’s main argument is that “all but one of the 9/11 hijackers carried government IDs that helped them board planes”.

However, Mohammad Atta was a foreign national who entered the US with valid visa, and could have used his foreign passport to board domestic flights. Nothing in the REAL ID changes that. Every year, hundred of millions of foreign nationals enter the US for business and for tourism, and without those, the US global business would grind to a halt. But those foreigners need to move around, and most of them do not have any US driver licenses. Therefore, they use their foreign passports to ride domestic airplanes, and use their international driver’s licenses to rent cars.

The gist of the story is that although Mohammad Atta was able to get a
Florida driver’s license and use it to board an airplane, he could also have boarded that domestic flight using his foreign passport, just as millions of visitors do daily. Better human intelligence and cooperation among our security agencies could have done much more to prevent 9/11 than a REAL ID Act.

A debate about the REAL ID act is a healthy and necessary one. There may be positives and negatives to this Act. But, this debate should be based on correct assumptions and not fear raising, and potentially misleading images.

Posted in Bills & Laws, Immigration, security, and fear | Leave a comment

Michigan Attorney General opinion unintended consequences for global trade

Michigan’s Attorney General’s office has issued an opinion, which limits driver’s licenses to US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (known as green card holders). Many Michiganders may applaud this opinion as enforcing our laws, without knowing how damaging this simplistic interpretation will be, if implemented.

First, our society is comprised not only of citizens and green card holders versus the undocumented. In Michigan there are hundreds of thousands of foreign investors, executives, managers, professionals, experts, and other foreign workers who are legal, are needed here, and are contributing to our economy, but are neither citizens nor green card holders. Making it harder for them to a drive will make Michigan a less friendly State to foreign business.

In addition, there is a huge segment of potentially legal immigrants who are in the process of becoming legal, but have to undergo a process that takes years, and who otherwise are allowed by the immigration service to work. They include refugees, immigrants with close US family ties, immigrants with hardships, and other comparable situations. Making it harder for those to drive will impose undue hardship on them, and will hurt Michigan economy by making idle an otherwise productive group, who may then need to rely on public assistance.

This ruling will also impose a huge drain on the resources of the offices of the Secretary of State, since they have to become instant experts in immigration law, causing substantial more delays to everyone else.

The above does not even start to address the very notion of whether it is wise to drive the undocumented aliens underground, creating a segment of society who are driving without insurance, without testing, and who are unlikely to report crimes or to cooperate with police.

Is it not better for our national security if we know who is living among us, with their addresses and what cars they drive?

The Attorney General’s opinion seems to be based on an erroneous common misconception that a driver’s license granted to an illegal alien would enable him to work. That is simply not true, because work authorization requires a social security card with work authorization from the Federal government. Nor would a to license to an illegal alien prevent the Federal Government from deporting that alien should it become necessary. I suggest Michigan’s officials reassess this ruling .

Posted in Bills & Laws, Immigration, security, and fear, Recent Posts, Skilled immigrants, The undocumented | Leave a comment