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It’s not often you find groups as far apart politically as the
American Civil Liberties Union, La Raza, Eagle Forum and Concerned Women
of America on the same side of an issue.
But these organizations and others — such as the Conference of State
Legislatures, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Free
Congress Foundation — are united in a broad-based coalition from
across the political spectrum to force repeal of an obscure section of
an immigration law Congress passed three years ago, which provides a
provision for turning state driver’s licenses into what these critics
claim is a national identification card.
Section 656 (b) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibilities Act of 1996 requires states to collect, verify and
display social security numbers on state-issued driver’s licenses and
conform with federally-mandated uniform features for driver’s licenses.
It authorizes the federal Department of Transportation to establish
national requirements for birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
The Illegal Immigration Reform Act — with Section 656 (b) — is
scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, 2000.
“Basically, what the statute says is that federal agencies ‘may not
accept for identification or related purposes a driver’s license or
other comparable identification document issued by a state unless the
license or document satisfies the requirements established by the act,'”
said Norm Singleton, Rep. Paul’s legislative assistant, quoting the act
“What that in essence means is that anything that under federal law
you’re required to show an ID for, you can only show or produce an ID
that corresponds to the standards of the act,” Singleton explained.
“You will have a mandated, uniform ID that you will have to show
opening a bank account, getting a job, traveling on a plane, applying
for Social Security or Medicare — those are some of the things you
won’t be able to do without a federally approved ID,” he said.
In addition to Social Security numbers the new driver’s licenses may
include microchips encoded with the holder’s fingerprints and other
In the House Ron Paul has led the fight against Section 656 (b).
“It’s a threat to liberty,” says Singleton. “That’s why Congressman
favors repeal of this section. There’s no constitutional authority for
the federal government to be telling the states what kind of ID they
must issue to their citizens in order to get a driver’s license or any
other kind of license. It’s another example in this country of how we’re
allowing the erosion of our traditional liberties and our Bill of
In the Senate, Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has taken a leading role by
attaching an amendment to a transportation appropriations bill that
would repeal the controversial Section 656 (b). The appropriations bill
is now in the conference committee, and could be discussed
and voted on as early as today — certainly by the end of the week.
The question is whether the language to repeal Sec. 656 (b) will be
allowed to remain.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is fighting all efforts to keep the repeal
language. He denies Section 656 (b) spells a national ID card, and views
it as a much-needed way of stemming illegal immigration.
In case the repeal language is removed, the opponents in the House
have another avenue to pursue:
Earlier this year Rep. Paul introduced HR 2337 which would repeal the
“If the appropriation bill passes without the repeal in it, the
alternative for those who support the national ID repeal is to support
efforts to get HR 2337 to the floor of the House and then through the
Senate. That’s really our only other option,” he said.
Towards this end Paul and a group of colleagues in the House have
launched an organization — the Liberty Study Committee — dedicated to the issues dealing with
privacy, presidential executive orders and the United Nations.
The first project is the repeal of the national ID card — and there
is a special web address for this — at No National ID.com. This has links to the Conference Committee
members and the other members of Congress.
Kent Snyder, project director, said, “Rep. Paul hopes the American
people will make their voices heard on this issue like they did in the
past on national IDs, on
medical IDs, on Know Your Customer — and that they make sure that their
representatives understand that they want a Congress that respects
their constitutional liberties.”
Selection of previous articles on national ID card: