Proposalwould explore driver’s license option at border

Published on Thu, Mar 8, 2007 by eg Olson

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Proposal would explore driver’s license option at border

By Meg Olson

A federal proposal could open the door a little wider for proponents of driver’s licenses to be used to cross the northern border.

On March 1 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Michael Chertoff announced proposed rules had been submitted to the Federal Register for a 60-day comment period. Once implemented, the rules would set minimum standards for state-issued licenses in compliance with the 2005 REAL-ID act, which mandates more secure documents at all U.S. points of entry.

“Raising the security standards on driver’s licenses establishes another layer of protection to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using fake documents to plan or carry out an attack,” Chertoff said.

The new rules attempt to address states’ concerns that they aren’t being given enough time and money to carry out the federal mandate.
“Governor Gregoire is concerned with the lack of federal funding for REAL-ID implementation,” said Lars Ericksen, press secretary for Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.

He added “the Senate has passed a bill that prevents the state from implementing REAL-ID without appropriate federal funding.”

The new rules proposed by DHS will still require REAL-ID identification to access federally-regulated commercial airliners or federal facilities, but they extend the deadline for states to begin issuing the new cards from May 2008 to December 2009. The DHS also announced additional grant funding would be available.

Without proposing how it would be done, the new rules also acknowledge interest in border states to explore the possible interplay between an enhanced driver’s license/identification card and Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requirements, which could make passports mandatory to enter the U.S. at land borders as early as next year.

“We are encouraged by the mention of using a license as a land border crossing document,” Ericksen said. He added that Gregoire would be proposing “an enhanced driver's license that would meet the requirements of WHTI as an alternate document to a passport for land/sea border crossing with Canada.”

In November 2006 Gregoire proposed a pilot project to test driver’s license scanners that could be used by Customs and Border Protection officers to identify fraudulent licenses and link with law enforcement databases. Ericksen said Gregoire met with Chertoff in late February to discuss the proposal.

“We’ve gotten very good feedback but there’s nothing positive,” he said.