Editorial: Real ID Act step down slippery slope

You wait in line, oftentimes for hours, at the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles office to obtain a driver's license.

After all, it's the state's exclusive business to ensure that you meet the requirements set down to qualify for a license, right?

Not so fast, according to an intrusive federal law called the Real ID Act.

Implementation of the Real ID Act for New Mexicans has again been delayed indefinitely but should be rejected permanently. Besides, under the Constitution's 10th Amendment, only a state can determine who is qualified to drive a motor vehicle within its borders.

States must retain that right. And New Mexico's congressional Democrats, Sen. Tom Udall, Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Ben Lujan, should raise a collective ruckus to ensure the Real ID Act doesn't supplant the states' authority.

The intent of Real ID — enacted on May 11, 2005, and signed into law by President George W. Bush — is to make us safer against terrorists. The Department of Homeland Security favors it as a method to track potential terrorists lurking among us.

We are dubious of the thought process used to arrive at that so-called consequence. More likely, we believe, this Act could be used to track ordinary citizens' comings and goings.

The Act represents a potentially frightening prospect for Americans who are concerned about erosion of state authority. And whatever happened to the traditional Republican support of state authority?

The Real ID Act was introduced in the House in January 2005 by U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and signed into law by a fellow Republican, President Bush.

However, the flaw in this legislation is any federal oversight of driver's licenses would create a de facto national identification card for all Americans. Is that what we really want or need — even in this age of vigilance against international terrorism?

The only answer should be "No."

The federal government has many other existing options with which it can track the movement of suspected terrorists in our midst. Indeed, Americans may know only a few of the surveillance techniques that U.S. agents already employ every minute of each day to search for bad guys among us.

Creating a federal database, as the Real ID Act would allow, puts more eyes on law-abiding Americans who already have to ask permission — from the states where they reside — to operate their privately owned motor vehicles. The Act is a dangerous step down a slippery slope.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.

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