LatinaLista — When it comes to national leadership in the country, do elected officials outweigh appointed officials?
The natural assumption would be â€” yes, but Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), arguably one of the hardest jobs in the nation right now, is flexing political muscle that seems excessive to someone appointed to his position.
The latest showdown for Chertoff has to do with the Real ID Act.
A bipartisan group of congressional leaders have asked Chertoff to postpone the May 11 deadline for requiring states to comply with the new rules for issuing state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards.
Seeing that it was Congress who passed the Real ID Act in the first place and they are the ones who are now asking for a postponement of its implementation rings a warning bell.
The lawmakers who asked for the postponement are: Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire; plus Democratic Sens. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, and Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana.
"These regulations raise disturbing constitutional issues regarding the ability of some citizens to travel freely and access their federal government," the lawmakers wrote in a March 12 letter to Mr. Chertoff.
States have until March 31 to request an extension to enroll in the program to set standards for determining which state-issued identifications are secure enough to be accepted by the federal government, which determines whether those IDs are good for such purposes as boarding commercial flights and entering federal buildings.
The cost of the program to implement it is said to be about $4 billion. The National Governors Association said they will comply with the program â€” as long as Congress supplies $1 billion in initial funding.
So, what's the big deal about this Read ID Act? For starters, it was created (supposedly) to protect against terrorist entry into the country. Also, there are a few amendments slapped on for good measure amending the Immigration and Nationality Act. After all, undocumented immigrants and terrorists are interchangeable labels in the eyes of the DHS.
But the Real ID Act isn't going to impact undocumented immigrants and terrorists, well, why would they care? The people who will suffer will be us.
A few highlights of the bill that nobody has paid much attention to and clearly illustrates why Chertoff is practicing how to flex his political muscle right now include:
(Sec. 102) Amends the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security (the Secretary), in the Secretary's sole discretion, to waive all laws as necessary to ensure expeditious construction of certain barriers and roads at the U.S. border. Prohibits courts, administrative agencies, and other entities from reviewing the Secretary's decision or from ordering relief for damages alleged to have resulted from such decision.
Expands the definition of "terrorist organization" to incorporate a broader range of underlying activities.
Makes this section applicable to removal proceedings instituted, and grounds of inadmissibility occurring, before, on, or after the enactment of this Act.
(Sec. 105) Bars inadmissible arriving aliens from seeking judicial review of removal orders through habeas corpus, mandamus, or other extraordinary petitions.
(Sec. 202) Prohibits Federal agencies from accepting State issued driver's licenses or identification cards unless such documents are determined by the Secretary to meet minimum security requirements, including the incorporation of specified data, a common machine-readable technology, and certain anti-fraud security features.
(Sec. 203) Requires States, as a condition of receiving grant funds or other financial assistance under this title, to participate in the interstate compact regarding the sharing of driver's license data (the Driver License Agreement).
(Sec. 205) Authorizes the Secretary to make grants to assist States in conforming to the minimum standards set forth in this title.
(Sec. 206) Gives the Secretary all authority to issue regulations, set standards, and issue grants under this title. Gives the Secretary of Transportation all authority to certify compliance with such standards.
Authorizes the Secretary to grant States an extension of time to meet the minimum document requirements and issuance standards of this title, with adequate justification.
It would appear the Real ID Act should be renamed: "The Real Power in Washington Act."
And if his refusal of the Congressional lawmakers' request was not enough, Chertoff had to add something more to show he meant business:
"Congress has mandated that there will be very real implications after May 11 for residents of states whose leadership chooses to reject Real ID compliance," Mr. Chertoff said.
"Showing up at the airport with only a driver's license from such a state will be no better than showing up without identification," he said.
Funny he should be telling members of Congress what Congress did.
Shouldn't it be the other way around?