Republicans in Congress are renewing an effort begun last year to toughen immigration and asylum laws, saying the steps are needed to safeguard the country against future terrorism.
Claiming support from more than 100 of his House colleagues, all but one of them Republican, Congressman James Sensenbrenner says his legislation called the Real ID Act is a critical addition to homeland security:
“The goal of the Real ID Act is straightforward,” he said. “It seeks to prevent another September 11-type attack, by disrupting terrorist travel.”
Mr. Sensenbrenner was one of two key House committee chairmen holding up congressional approval late last year of a bill reorganizing the U.S. intelligence system, by trying unsuccessfully to include his immigration changes in the legislation.
He says his new bill seeks to narrow the conditions under which U.S. driver's licenses can be used as a form of identification to federal officials.
Congressman Sensenbrenner recalls what is known about how the 9/11 terrorists used driver's licenses.
“The September 11 hijackers could have used their passports to board the planes, but only one did,” he noted. “Why was that? Those murderers chose our drivers licenses and state ID's as a form of identification because those documents allowed them to blend in and not raise suspicion or concern.”
The congressman denies his legislation seeks to dictate to U.S. states who can or cannot drive a car, a complaint heard last year from those who opposed his previous effort.
Also included are steps to tighten laws dealing with individuals seeking political asylum.
In his news conference Wednesday, President Bush said he still aims to push for overall immigration reform during his second and final term in the White House:
“I also happen to believe immigration reform is necessary to help make it easier to protect our borders,” said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush's comment, in response to a reporter's question, was directed at the problem of illegal immigration across the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
The President has not stated his position on Mr. Sensenbrenner's bill, but civil liberties groups are already speaking out against it.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday the legislation would do little to enhance U.S. security, while undermining the U.S. commitment to freedom and liberty.