It’s nice to see a cooperative approach is developing to find a more palatable solution for creating an identification mechanism that can be used to enter Canada and Mexico from the United States, and return, without requiring an onerous passport for the individuals involved.
The idea of pursuing an “enhanced driver’s license” was shared Wednesday by representatives from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba at the conclusion of the eighth annual legislative forum held this week in Bismarck. This alternative is sought as a valid option to the “Real ID” system the federal Homeland Security Department wants states to use.
Forum Communications Capitol Bureau reporter Janell Cole’s article on Thursday stated unlike the Real ID proposal, the enhanced driver’s license approach is totally voluntary. It also has Homeland Security Department approval for use in crossing the Canadian and Mexican borders.
“When you live right next to one of your major trading partners and you have thousands of people going back and forth, neither of us want to see that movement restricted because it will affect both of our economies,” Manitoba deputy premier Rosann Wowchuck was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story.
Marianne Rude is an Ontario native working in Washington, D.C., as a consultant for the government of Manitoba on the enhanced driver’s license idea, Cole reported. She and others are trying to maintain travel by Canadians and U.S. residents who don’t have passports, can’t afford passports and who believe once passports are required to travel, will never visit neighboring countries again.
Cole reports passports cost $85 to $100 each and less useful passport cards are $45 and all can have significant waiting periods.
Under Real ID, driver’s licenses must meet a national standard and be linked to record-keeping systems. Along with the concern about cost is a fear of invading people’s privacy, the AP story reports.
Even the enhanced driver’s license, however, includes an imbedded information chip.
“If it’s going to be a precursor to Real ID and that data is in some agency out of North Dakota, then I think we want to steer clear,” said North Dakota state Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, Minn., said the public has to be educated for the enhanced driver’s license concept to gain support, Cole reports.
There is no question that a major education campaign is going to be required to get the public to accept any alternative to the Real ID requirement. The biggest fear is indeed what happens with the private information that’s included in any computer chip.
What information is to be gathered and by whom? How is that information to be stored and what safeguards are there to protect that information? What repercussions are there for anyone or any agency that violates regulations regarding the use and protection of this information?
These questions and undoubtedly many more are all valid and deserve responses before any decision should be made to adopt a specific identification card system.
The fact our state officials are having discussions with neighboring states and provinces about finding a solution to this matter is again a very positive thing. We hope the good number of people apparently involved in this discussion helps to uncover the necessary questions that need to be addressed so the final proposal is acceptable by the overwhelming majority of us.