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Public Statements

Immigration

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


IMMIGRATION -- (Senate - June 28, 2007)

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, last night there was a vote on a critical amendment to the immigration bill, Senator Baucus' proposal to strip any reference to REAL ID in the underlying bill. This, truly, is a case of addition by subtraction.

REAL ID--astronomically expensive, personally intrusive, controversial, and unrealistic, passed by the last Congress without real scrutiny--is precisely the kind of impractical trigger that could derail comprehensive immigration reform.

Unless we amend this bill, real reform will have to wait for REAL ID. Consider the groups lined up against it: not just the ACLU, but also the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National Governors Association. Since REAL ID passed in the last Congress, 16 States have enacted anti-Real ID bills or resolutions. Another 22 States, including my own, have anti-Real ID bills and resolutions pending in their State legislatures.

Why are they so opposed to REAL ID? They are opposed because it sets an unreachable standard and offers States almost no financial help in meeting it. Conservative estimates State that it would cost $23 billion to fully implement REAL ID. This legislation only authorizes $1.5 billion for States and the President didn't ask for a single dollar for REAL ID in his budget request. That means that States would have to shoulder a $21 billion burden. That is an enormous unfunded mandate.

This crushing financial burden on States is bad enough--but REAL ID poses a security risk as well. Its requirements expose people's personal data to theft by creating a massive pool of highly sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers, birth certificates and driving information.

Even if States could pay for this new program it would require a tremendous amount of personnel and work to get this done. The Massachusetts DMV has estimated it would take 10 years to reenroll current citizens with licenses alone, which would place them beyond the 2013 deadline in the bill.

REAL ID is profoundly flawed--That is why six States have passed laws that prohibit it from being implemented at all. These States will never be REAL ID compliant and that is why its inclusion in the immigration bill is so dangerous.

Immigration reform is difficult enough without conditioning it on an unfeasible, unfunded mandate that States are not only unwilling but in some cases legally bound not to meet. Squaring that circle should not be a precondition for a much larger need: providing real immigration reform for the American people.

I am proud to have supported the Baucus-Tester amendment to remove this dangerous and nonsensical provision from the underlying bill. I hope that we will be able to move forward and create a fair, reasonable and comprehensive immigration bill that this country so desperately needs.

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