Letter to the Editor: REAL ID

Dear Editor:
I’m writing to relate my experience at the Meeker DMV on Jan. 6, 2012. I arrived around 10:30 a.m. to find a number of individuals before me, patiently waiting for their turn at the counter. I was 16th in line. This letter, however, is not about the long wait (though the state should consider hiring another staff member to help with the surprising crowd in Meeker). Rather, my concern is with the documentation required to renew my driver’s license.
Among the items I could use to prove my physical address were utility bills, college transcripts, bank statements, etc. As a college student living in Maine for the last four years, I did not have any of these things with Colorado addresses and my name, save for my transcript. Unfortunately, my school, like so many others in the country, does not issue paper documents to studentsñeverything must be accessed online. Conveniently, the DMV cannot accept transcripts printed from the Internet. My two-weeks-expired Colorado-issued driver’s license was not adequate proof of identification or address to renew said license. My old license, my passport, student ID, college transcript, tuition bill, latest grade report, credit card and parents’ vehicle registrationsñnone sufficed as proper documentation for my license renewal.
Eventually, the renewal was granted because I brought in a “rent receipt” for $1 hastily written by my mother minutes before. Yes, an essentially fraudulent document guaranteed the renewal of my license, while legitimate government-issued IDs and documentation were turned away as inadequate. Thank you, bureaucracy. And it all took me just five hours of wasted timeñseveral people left without being seen after waiting a similar amount of time. While waiting, I spoke with someone else who had trouble with proving residency (also a lifetime Meeker resident), and I’m sure there are people across the nation experiencing the same headache.
The confusing and frustrating new regulations (effective April 2011) are thanks to the REAL ID Act, passed by the House, unanimously approved by the Senate, and signed by former President Bush in 2005. Why did it only recently go into effect? A clever provision in the bill delayed its implementation for three years, and it was further delayed by challenges from the states. This act essentially strips states of their rights to regulate the issuance of driver’s licenses, allowing the national government to decide which documents are necessary for state-issued licenses. Originally promoted as a way to combat illegal immigration and terrorism, this bill is affecting regular Americans like you and me.
Does it stop anyone from getting a driver’s license? Illegal immigrants and terrorists: you too can have a Colorado driver’s license (or any state license for that matter) if you can write and have a few dollars for a receipt book (available everywhere). Opponents of the REAL ID Act are a diverse group, including the Obama administration, the Cato Institute (a libertarian think-tank), and Mike Huckabee. This bill is yet another example (see Arizona immigration bill) where actions intended to affect specific groups of people end up affecting all Americans; that’s what comes with legal equalityña necessary pillar of American political thought. Furthermore, it weakens state power and increases that of the national government, all in the name of “protecting” citizens. Perhaps we should start worrying more about the overreaching policies of our own government before we give in to over-inflated threats of encroaching radical Islamist law and foreign enemies.
Who knew a trip to the Meeker DMV could be so enlightening?
Sam G. Love
Brunswick, Maine