Official warns of huge impact from Real ID
CHAMPAIGN – As area motorists lined up to an overflowing driver facility in Champaign on Tuesday, the inspector general for the state's license bureau warned that a mandated national license will require more documentation and processing in the future.
Jim Burns, inspector general for the Illinois secretary of state, heads up a committee within that office to look at issues related to the Real ID, a national license system required under federal law.
The law, passed with a federal military appropriations bill, gives the Department of Homeland Security the power to set standards for state drivers' licenses and other identification. Only approved identification can be used for such things as boarding an airplane or entering a federal courthouse, Burns said.
"The federal act will have a huge impact," Burns told reporters at the Champaign license facility on Bradley Avenue in West Champaign.
People seeking drivers' licenses in any state must produce documents with their full legal name, including a full middle name, a photo identity document, birth records, proof of Social Security number and proof of name and principal residence.
The federal law requires the state to verify the documents and then scan and store them electronically. The system must be in place by May 2008, according to Burns. That will mean new computer systems and may require additional employees, he said.
Illinois has 8.5 million registered driver's licenses. They would all be required to get new identification, along with people who want to travel on airplanes who don't have a driver's license now. Burns said he believes there will be a staggered or phased implementation, rather than requiring millions of drivers to get new licenses at once.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said in announcing the House passage of the bill that it has border security and terrorism prevention measures.
"Giving state drivers' licenses to anyone, regardless of whether they are here legally or illegally, is an open invitation for terrorists and criminals to exploit," Sensenbrenner said. "States will now have to require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. before issuing drivers' licenses."
Burns said the measure could affect not only illegal immigrants, but also students, like the thousands in Champaign-Urbana, who have temporary residency. They may not be able to maintain their home address on their driver's license.
"The new law says that students have to get a temporary ID that gives their current residency," Burns said. "Right now, hardly any states have that."
Illinois will have to be able to link to other states and agencies to share and verify information, according to Burns. That would be just one aspect of costs for the new system, he said.
It's too early to estimate the financial impact of the law in Illinois, but state officials, including White and the governor, are working with leaders in Congress to hopefully get federal funding for t
he changes, Burns said.
At a recent conference of state governors, many states raised objections to the new law, he said.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of implementing Real ID would be $100 million over five years, or less than $2 million per state, with the District of Columbia included.
"Our attitude is it's going to be done," Burns said. The feds have said it's going to be done. It's being done from a security standpoint, so we aren't going to sit by and wait. Let's buckle down and get going."