Ridge: Link driver's license, visa
- By William Matthews
- Mar 14, 2002
The Office of Homeland Security is urging states to establish tighter control
over foreign visitors by issuing driver's licenses that expire when visas
The office is drafting model legislation to require that driver's licenses
issued to non-citizens be tied to visas, homeland security spokesman Gordon
Johndroe said March 14. The model is to be sent to the states for consideration
In recent weeks, Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security,
has been encouraging governors and other state officials to take steps to
improve the security and authenticity of driver's licenses.
In a conference call with state officials March 7, Ridge told state
emergency management officials that he hopes motor vehicle departments can
be electronically linked to databases maintained by the federal Immigration
and Naturalization Service. That would enable state workers to check the
immigration status of foreign nationals who apply for driver's licenses
and issue licenses that would expire when visas expire.
Such capability also could enable the states to help keep better track
of visiting foreigners.
INS has asked Congress for $380 million to build an entry and exit data
system to keep track of foreign visitors. The system may include biometric
identification information such as fingerprints or eye scans of visa holders.
Such information also could be included on driver's licenses.
Ridge's telephone remarks came about 10 days after he urged governors
attending a National Governors Association meeting to draft model legislation
setting standards for more secure licensing procedures. By coming up with
their own standards, Ridge said, the governors would avoid having standards
forced on them by Congress.
Driver's licenses became a source of concern after the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks because most of the terrorists used such licenses — obtained legally
and illegally — for identification.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is pressing
Congress to pass a law requiring states to adopt more uniform standards
for driver's licenses and stricter procedures for issuing them.
AAMVA officials said they want licenses to include security features
that make counterfeiting more difficult, and they want some form of "unique
identifier," possibly a biometric identifier such as a fingerprint or eye
The AAMVA also wants much more thorough verification of a license applicant's
identity before a license is issued. To accomplish that, the association
wants Congress to earmark as much as $100 million for a computerized Driver
Record Information Verification System that would enable federal and state
agencies to more readily share information they have collected on drivers.
Thus, identification verification might involve cross-checking data
submitted by license applicants with government databases that contain names,
addresses, passport numbers and Social Security numbers, law enforcement
records and INS data, AAMVA officials said.
The association also wants state driver's license databases to be interconnected
so that licensing officials can check to see whether applicants already
have licenses from other states.
Privacy advocates oppose high-tech licenses backed by interconnected
databases, fearing driver's licenses will come to be used as national identification
Johndroe said the model legislation the Office of Homeland Security
is drafting "isn't intended to lead to a national ID card; it is intended
to strengthen homeland security."