Letter from Congresswoman Susan Davis, 53rd District California

April 1, 2005

Dear Yvette,

Thank you for sharing your opposition to the Real ID Act, H.R. 418. I
appreciate hearing from you and apologize for the delay in my response.
During an average week, I receive more than one thousand pieces of
mail, and it often takes longer for me to respond personally than I would
like.

I visited Ground Zero in New York City after the September 11 attacks
and, as I stood there, I became overwhelmed by the fact that we are
faced with the most extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances of
terror. Four years later, we are still working to address terrorist threats
effectively. As we proceed in this area, however, we have to do so
carefully. Not only is our physical safety at stake, but also the legal,
ethical and democratic foundations that America has squarely rested
upon throughout our history as a nation.

I supported the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations on how to perform
parts of this arduous task, but I will not support less thoughtful
approaches that would have Americans “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in the name
of security. In this regard, I am sorry to report that the House passed
H.R. 418, the “REAL ID” Act, on February 10. This controversial
measure was misrepresented and misunderstood by many groups and media
reports. As such, I also heard from many constituents about its provisions.
I voted against H.R. 418, and I would like to take a moment to explain
my reasoning to you.

H.R. 418, the “REAL ID” Act, passed the House by a vote of 261-161. I
voted against this legislation, in large part, because I felt its scope
was recklessly broad. The bill contains a number of sweeping
provisions related to immigration reform and document security that had been
debated – but not passed – last year when Congress deliberated the
Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. If Congress ultimately
passes H.R. 418, it would reverse much of the hard work of the 9-11
Commission that we acted upon last year. This would be a tragic mistake.

While I fully support securing our borders and the documents we use
each day for identification, we must accomplish this goal without
compromising our nation’s longstanding democratic principles.

H.R. 418 would provide a waiver authority to be exempt from any
conceivable law that could stand in the way of the immediate completion of San
Diego’s border fence. I urge you to take a moment to consider the
implications of this waiver and the precedent it could set from this point
forward. Also important to note, this sweeping bill goes even further
by removing any possibility of judicial review from such waiver
decisions. In short, the federal government could come to San Diego and pave
over anything and everything it desired on our border; you and I would
be left powerless to say anything to the contrary.

Make no mistake. I support completing the remaining gaps in San
Diego’s border fence. I am also committed to securing the homeland and
fighting terrorism. This particular bill would create more demands on
states like California that are already strapped for money, while diverting
attention and resources away from demonstrated needs like staffing and
technology on our borders.

We should channel our limited resources in way that is most likely to
accomplish these goals, and do so in a cost-effective way. We should
put our resources toward increasing the number of Border Patrol agents,
for example, using technology to identify threats, and strengthening our
critical infrastructure.

I also opposed H.R. 418 on other grounds. These included the fact this
bill would undermine fundamental laws, rights and wishes of the states.
Indeed, the National Governors’ Association, the collective voice for
all our nation’s governors, strongly opposed the bill. I was informed
that Governors and motor vehicle administrators share my concern for
increasing the security and integrity of driver license and state
identification processes, but they also prefer the provisions Congress passed
last year in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. I
ardently believe the knowledge and expertise of America’s Governors on
this critical issue must be taken into account.

Once again, thank you for contacting me. As your representative, I
both need and value your perspective. Please sign up for my E-Newsletter
at my website, http://www.house.gov/susandavis, if you would like to receive
monthly updates about what is happening in Congress.

With warm regards,

Susan A. Davis
Member of Congress

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