Oppose REAL ID Act (H.R. 418)

February 4, 2005

To the Members of Congress:

I urge you to oppose Representative Sensenbrenner’s REAL ID Act (H.R. 418), introduced in Congress on January 26. After the anti-immigrant measures that he championed were stripped from the intelligence reform bill, Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI) vowed to see his provisions enacted during the 109th Congress. His bill includes, among other provisions, the asylum, driver’s license, and inadmissibility/removability provisions that were wisely stricken from the final Conference Report that was enacted into law last year. These controversial measures will not make America safer, but they will alienate immigrant communities in this country that already feel besieged.

Representative Sensenbrenner has indicated that Republican leaders have committed to include these measures in the first must-pass legislative vehicle. I urge you to voice your concern about this procedure and oppose these controversial provisions. Specifically, I urge you to oppose the following ill-conceived measures contained in the REAL ID Act, none of which would enhance national security: Heighten Asylum Eligibility and Proof Standards: Asylum applicants already undergo more extensive security checks than any other foreign nationals who come to this country and terrorists and others who pose a danger to our security are ineligible for asylum. While the proposal to revamp our asylum system would do nothing to make us safer, it would deny asylum to legitimate applicants who cannot prove the central motive of their persecutor, who cannot produce corroborating evidence of their account, or whose demeanor is inconsistent with an immigration judge’s preconceived expectations. Proving motive is already a difficult exercise for many individuals fleeing persecution. To require them to establish the centrality of one motive above potentially several motives would be to impose a nearly insurmountable standard of proof. In addition, people fleeing severe persecution often lack the opportunity and the wherewithal to secure the type of legal evidence needed to corroborate their claims. Moreover, the demeanor of torture survivors has repeatedly been found to be a poor indicator of credibility because the effects of the trauma often leaves them with a dull or flat affect. Link Driver’s License Eligibility to Immigration Status: The intelligence reform bill that Congress passed last year already addresses the concerns raised by the 9/11 Commission regarding driver’s licenses and identity documents. However, Mr. Sensenbrenner’s proposal to set federal eligibility requirements for driver’s licenses, including restrictions on immigrants’ access to licenses, would undermine, not enhance, national security by pushing people deeper into the shadows. Such a result would severely undermine the law enforcement utility of Department of Motor Vehicles databases by limiting, rather than expanding, government data about individuals in this country.

Expand Grounds of Inadmissibility and Removability: The proposal to permit deportation of non-citizens who are members of or support any political organization that has used violence, even if the organization has not been designated as a “foreign terrorist organization,” is unnecessary and potentially unconstitutional. This proposal to impose guilt by association confounds our basic understandings of liberty and, with its retroactive application, could be used to deport long-term, lawful residents, even if the association rendering them deportable occurred decades earlier and was legal at the time.

Take Action:

Contact the White House by phone at 202-456-1111 to oppose REAL ID Act (H.R. 418); the
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) at 202-225-2976; Senator Frist (R-TN) at 202-224-3344.

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