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Gallegly Praises House Passage of Real ID Act

Location: Washington, DC

Gallegly Praises House Passage of Real ID Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties) today praised passage by the House of Representatives of the "Real ID Act of 2005," of which he is an original cosponsor.

Among other things, the bill sets minimum security criteria that states would have to meet to have their driver's licenses accepted as identification to board commercial flights or enter federal facilities, and makes it more difficult for terrorists to stay in the United States by requesting asylum.

"The House today closed more holes in our security network as noted by the 9/11 Commission, specifically their recommendation that the federal government set standards for driver's licenses, and their admonishment that terrorists have entered and stayed in the United States under lax asylum rules," Gallegly said.

The driver's license provision does not create a national identification card, as opponents of the bill have argued, Gallegly said.

"Under the 'Real ID Act,' the federal government will neither control nor regulate state driver's licenses. No federal database will be created to keep track of licenses. All the act does is create minimum security standards that states will have to meet if they want their driver's licenses to be accepted as identification by federal agencies," Gallegly said.

For driver's licenses to be acceptable to federal agencies, applicants must provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S., the licenses must meet tough physical security requirements to reduce counterfeiting, and driver's licenses issued to foreign visitors must expire when the visitor's visa expires.

"Many states accept easily forged identification issued by foreign governments, known as consular cards, to issue driver's licenses. Because no state can accurately determine the legitimacy of such easily forged cards-a point I have been arguing for years-criminals and terrorists could find them a convenient way to build a false identity. The 'Real ID Act' closes that loophole," Gallegly said.

The need to tighten up U.S. asylum laws was made clear by examples provided in the 9/11 Commission report about how terrorists have already used lax laws to attack the United States.

For example, Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, who tried to bomb the New York City subway in 1997, used a false asylum claim to prevent deportation prior to taking part in terrorism. In addition, Mohammed Salameh, a conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, applied for amnesty and was denied. But, because there was no mechanism in place to force people denied amnesty to leave the country, he continued to live and work in the United States illegally and ultimately took part in the 1993 attack.

Also, Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 WTC attack, did not have a visa to enter the country, but he applied for asylum when he arrived at JFK airport. Because of a lack of detention space, he was paroled into the country.

"The undeniable fact about the war on terror is that the enemy is looking for any loophole to enter the United States and move around freely while they plan ways to kill Americans and then carry them out," Gallegly said. "We are a nation of immigrants and we welcome millions of visitors every year. We just have to be a bit smarter about how we do business to make sure our visitors don't mean us harm."

The bill passed the House on a 261-161 vote. It next must be considered by the Senate.

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