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Background Information REAL ID Act
Released 28 April 2005  By N/A

Background. Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, recently introduced the REAL ID Act (H.R.418), legislation which would make many aspects of our immigration laws more restrictive. Specifically, the legislation would make it more difficult for bona fide asylum-seekers to obtain protection in the United States; prohibit undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses; and grant the Department of Homeland Security the authority to waive all laws which block the erection of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The legislation has passed the House of Representatives and has been attached to the supplemental appropriations measure for Iraq and tsunami aid relief.

Summary of Legislation. The legislation introduced by Representative Sensenbrenner would enact changes in three areas:

Asylum: The legislation would require that an asylum seeker demonstrate that his or her persecution on one of the five enumerated grounds (religion, social group, race, nationality, or political opinion) was a central reason for the persecution. Current law requires that one of the five necessary grounds was one of several reasons (called "mixed motive") for persecution. The legislation also gives immigration judges more leeway in determining whether an asylum applicant is credible and the authority to deny a claim if an applicant cannot produce corroborating evidence to validate a claim.

Denial of Driver's Licenses to the Undocumented: The legislation would deny the use of State driver's licenses for federal purposes if the State issues driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Currently 11 States allow the issuance of a driver's license to undocumented immigrants.

Erection of Barriers along the U.S.-Mexico Border: The legislation would give the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all federal, state, and local laws to allow for the construction of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The stated reason for this provision is to allow for completion of a three-mile section of fence to be completed along the border near San Diego.

USCCB Position. In a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes, bishop of San Bernardino and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's Committee on Migration, stated that H.R. 418 would "harm those in need of protection, make our roads and highways less safe, and drive migrants even further into remote desert regions, all without making our nation safer from a terrorist threat."

Talking Points. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is opposed to the REAL ID Act (H.R. 418) because it would harm asylum-seekers to our nation, make our roads less safe, and drive migrants into even more remote regions of the desert, leading to the loss of life. Specifically, the legislation would 1). make it more difficult for asylum-seekers fleeing oppression to receive asylum in the United States by raising evidentiary standards to prove a claim, effectively returning bona fide asylum seekers to their persecutors; 2). deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, who will continue to drive without insurance or driver's training; and 3). permit the federal government to waive all laws for the construction of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, which would drive migrants into more dangerous routes.

We ask that you oppose H.R. 418, the REAL ID Act and support its removal from supplemental appropriations legislation now being considered by Congress.

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