THE DALLAS MORNING
Feb. 11, 2005
WASHINGTON - The House moved to deny driver's licenses
to illegal immigrants and to tighten
asylum laws - offering the first salvo
in what is sure to be a contentious
debate over immigration on Capitol Hill
On a 261-161 vote, the
House approved legislation Thursday that
backers say would improve border
security and hamper terrorists' ability
to travel inside the country.
"The goal of the Real ID
Act is straightforward. It seeks to
prevent another 9/11-type terrorist
attack by disrupting terrorist travel,"
said the bill's author, Rep. James
Not so, said a broad
swath of critics, who charged that the
measure's champions used the threat of
terrorism to crack down on immigrants
and asylum seekers while placing the
financial burden on the states.
The bill was opposed by
immigrant and refugee advocates, state
motor-vehicle administrators, the
National Governors Association,
religious groups and civil libertarians.
"It will make it harder
for those fleeing religious and
political persecution to access freedom;
prevent legal immigrants from becoming
citizens; put more unlicensed and
uninsured drivers on our roads; and make
the government exempt from labor,
environmental, contract, immigration,
health, safety and other laws when
constructing border barriers," said
Angela Kelley, deputy director of the
National Immigration Forum.
Though the legislation
gained a boost this week with a White
House endorsement, its prospects in the
Senate are unclear.
Several key Senate
Republicans have said the bill should be
considered as part of a broader
immigration debate, including President
Bush's proposal to grant guest-worker
status to many of those living illegally
in the United States.
In hopes of forcing the
Senate to act on the bill, House
Republican leaders intend to roll it
into the first must-pass legislation of
the year, likely to be the supplemental
funding for the war in Iraq. That move
could set up a confrontation with Senate
GOP leaders, who have said they don't
want to load the Iraq bill with extra
The legislation also
mandates completion of a border fence
near San Diego that has been held up
amid environmental concerns.
complained that the bill is so broadly
written that it permits the
homeland-security secretary to sidestep
all judicial scrutiny and waive all
federal laws along the border - not just
for completion of the fence.
"No person in our country
should be given unfettered authority and
unfettered discretion to waive any and
all laws, whatever the purpose," said
Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn.