- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano seems to be floundering on immigration and national security issues.

Not only is she continuing her quixotic campaign against Real ID, the main federal law safeguarding the integrity of drivers’ licenses and keeping them out of the hands of terrorists, but she has also been weak and apologetic about the efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to do its job - removing illegal aliens from the United States. By contrast, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who had turned his state into a sanctuary for Illegal aliens, has reversed himself regarding drivers’ licenses for illegals and complying with Real ID.

At the national level, Napolitano is headed in the wrong direction.

As governor, Napolitano pledged not to cooperate with the program, and in June she signed a law forbidding her state from cooperating with Real ID. Last year, as chairwoman of the National Governors Association, she denounced Real ID as an unfunded mandate that states could not afford. According to the association, Real ID will cost $11 billion over five years to implement. The NGA and Napolitano gloss over or ignore the financial benefits that result from having more secure drivers’ licenses - which include giving law enforcement a vital tool to combat organized crime and identity-fraud rings that can easily steal millions of dollars from unsuspecting persons.

Since becoming DHS secretary, Napolitano has said that governors need options to make identification more secure, but not necessarily “under the rubric of Real ID.” As a compromise alternative, she suggested going to a system of “enhanced drivers’ licenses,” or EDLs, used in three border states - Washington state, New York State and Vermont - in place of a passport to enter the U.S. from neighboring countries. But enhanced drivers’ licenses have several significant limitations.

They are only available to citizens (thus millions of lawfully present non-citizens currently in the U.S. couldn’t use them.) And the EDL card contains an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip analogous to the one used on a passport. If previous history is any indication, any decision by the federal government to use EDLs as drivers’ licenses would create “another-four-year rulemaking process, because of the bureaucratic processes and the privacy-rights people going ballistic,” said says Janis Kephart, chief of homeland security programs with the Center for Immigration Studies. Judging from her public comments so far on Real ID and drivers’ licenses, it is unclear whether Napolitano has given much thought to the real-world problems inherent in her suggested alternative to Real ID.

Late last month, Napolitano ordered a review of a Feb. 24 raid on an engine plant in Washington State in which 28 persons suspected of being illegal immigrants were arrested. Senior DHS officials said Napolitano had not been informed about the raid (the first worksite raid since Napolitano took charge at DHS), and one told the New York Times that “she was not happy about it because it’s inconsistent with her position, and the president’s position on these matters.”

The political pandering has begun.

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