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April 19, 2005

Bar Assoc.: Planned Federal "ID" Law Threatens Rights

Sending a clear message that the Philadelphia legal community is opposed to legislative action that would hinder the rights and safety of immigrants in the United States, Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Andrew A. Chirls has asked Pennsylvania's U.S. Senators Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter to vote against the Real ID Act of 2005 (H.R. 418).
The Real ID Act of 2005, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 10, proposes legislation that would make it exponentially harder, and often impossible, for immigrants and asylum seekers to receive drivers' licenses--forcing them out of the country due to lack of proper identification.
At its most recent meeting, the Bar's Board of Governors unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Real ID Act of 2005, citing that it "threatens and undermines both the right to privacy of Americans, the right and ability of persons from other countries to apply for refuge in the United States when they are persecuted in their home countries, and the authority of our federal courts to review matters brought before them."
In an April 4 letter to Senators Santorum and Specter, Chirls stressed the Bar's concerns that the Real ID Act will nullify current PA laws and regulations that govern drivers' licenses, thus overriding the cooperative approach between federal and state governments called for in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004. In addition, he points out that implementing the Real ID Act would be disregarding "decades of established law on burden of proof and standard of evidence in asylum and similar cases."
Pointing out a less-publicized issue of the legislation, Chirls said Section 102 of the Real I.D. Act would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to seize property within 100 miles of any U.S. border.
"This includes a large swath of land in Pennsylvania," Chirls wrote. "Seizure of land without regard to law and due process violates principles of judicial supremacy and due process."
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