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Real ID Act - Real Nightmare

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Message Gerard Keenan
Real ID Act - Real Nightmare


Gerard P. Keenan

Opposition to the Read ID Act has pointed out obvious privacy issues, trampling of civil liberties, exorbitant and runaway costs, and the hassle and inconvenience for millions of drivers.

But there are other worries.

For the average American my family's situation may seem unique, even extremely unusual, but for millions of service personnel, diplomats, civil servants, businessmen and other ex-pats who have lived overseas since the end of World War Two my story is neither unique nor unusual.

I served 20 years in the US Navy, followed by a further five years as a civilian with the Navy. For 23 of those years I served in Europe. My first wife was British and we had two daughters and a son, all born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and all issued British birth certificates; though one of those daughters passed away many years ago. My second wife is American who also served in the US Navy. We also have two daughters and a son. Both girls were born in London, England, and have British birth certificates.

So I have four children with British birth certificates; two hold current British passports, one holds a current US passport, and one does not hold any current passport at all.

All four possess the FS-240 - Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the USA - issued by the US Department of State; two by the Consul General, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and two by the US Embassy, London. All four have SSN's issued by the US Embassy, London.

My son from my first marriage was raised in Northern Ireland, but enlisted in the US Navy and served four years. After discharge he remained in the US, fully employed, for about 10 years before returning to Northern Ireland. He also held drivers licenses issued by two of the three states in which he resided.

What if he decided to take up permanent residence in the US again? He previously held a US passport, but now holds a British passport; he previously held driver's licenses in two states, but now holds a British license; he possesses a SSN (and has paid into Social Security); he has a British birth certificate, but is certified by the US Dept. of State as a US citizen; and he can produce a Certificate of Discharge (DD-214) verifying four years service in the US armed forces.

Now suppose my daughter decided to resettle in the US. She only lived here for a year when she was a child. She has a British birth certificate, British passport, British driver's license, and also possesses a valid SSN and Dept. of State Certification of US Citizenship. She is married to a British citizen and her two children possess British birth certificates and passports, but they may be considered US citizens as children of an American citizen-- the exact same situation that existed at the time of her own birth.

Under Sec. 202 ( c) (1) and (2), the minimum standards for issuing drivers licenses are laid out. However, it is Sec. 202 ( c)(3) - Verification of Documents - where the problems will become evident.

Sec. 202 ( c)(3)(A) - "Before issuing a driver's license or identification card to a person, the State shall verify, with the issuing agency, the issuance, validity, and completeness of each document required to be presented by the person under paragraph (1) or (2)."

According to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), 9 February 2007, there are about 245 million licensed drivers in this country - nearly all of whom will also be required to be re-licensed/re-credentialed under the provisions of the Real ID Act.

To effect this, and to issue new driver's licenses and ID cards, each person will have to produce the required documents listed in Sec. 202 ( c). The DMV is then required to "verify, with the issuing agency, the issuance, validity, and completeness of each document......"

Also according to the CSM, there are at least 16,000 issuers of birth certificates in this country alone from which the DMV's will have to obtain verification. Then there are the 50+ DMV's (including US territories) that issue driver's licenses and ID's. Throw into this mix the millions of Americans in similar situations to my own family and you are asking the impossible of DMV personnel.

My family is only one situation among millions that DMV personnel across the country will be confronted with. Will they be trained in the scenarios they'll have to face? Will they know which agency, in more than 100 countries, they will have to contact for verification - and how to do it? How long will it take to obtain verification, how much will it cost, and who will pay for it? How will verification be obtained from countries like Libya where we once had a sizeable military presence - but with whom we no longer even have diplomatic relations? Or countries that no longer exist - like Yugoslavia?

These are questions that need to be answered.
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Retired US Navy. Former civlian Security Ass't to Commander US Naval Forces Europe. Military/terrorism research expert. Current researcher/correspondent for Western Defense Studies Institute, Rome, Italy. Founding member and press officer (more...)
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