Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at a
Press Conference on Real ID
CHERTOFF: That’s what you call an introduction that is
short and sweet. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you for hosting
me here. Happy New Year to everybody.
One of the
biggest concerns we’ve had for the last several years,
one we continue to have at the Department of Homeland Security,
is how do we promote a secure form of identification across
America? And Congress has spoken to this by passing the REAL
ID Act several years ago, which provides that we have the obligation
to set uniform security standards for the issuance of state
When we went
back and investigated the 9/11 attacks, one of the things which
we found, and which the 9/11 Commission found, was that all
but one of the hijackers carried a government-issued identification
form – mostly driver’s licenses. And this government-issued
ID helped the hijackers board airplanes, or remain in the country
illegally. That’s why the 9/11 Commission recommended
that we enhance the security of our driver’s licenses
as a counterterrorism measure. And that’s why Congress
set higher standards for driver’s licenses in the REAL
ID Act. That’s also why the American people overwhelmingly
support more security for driver’s licenses.
really three reasons why secure driver’s licenses and
security standards for driver’s licenses make a lot of
sense. First of all, as the 9/11 Commission noted in its final
report, secure identification is an essential way of ensuring
that people are who they say they are. And therefore this kind
of identification gives us a tremendous tool in preventing
dangerous people from getting on airplanes or getting into
identification happens to be a very good way to prevent illegal
immigrants from pretending to be American citizens so they
can work illegally in this country. And make no mistake about
it: identity fraud among illegal immigrants is a serious problem.
It harms the legal worker, it deceives the honest employer,
and it destroys the privacy and the good credit of innocent
Americans every year.
year 2007, when we were conducting worksite enforcement operations,
enforcing the immigration laws, our Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agents made 863 criminal arrests, and ended up
charging more than 500 individuals with state and federal document
fraud crimes, including identity theft and Social Security
identification protects all of us from the pernicious plague
of identity theft. Last year, our Secret Service arrested over
4,300 suspects, including both legal and illegal workers, for
identity theft crimes that totaled $690 million in actual fraud
loss to individuals and financial institutions. Studies show
that roughly 35 percent of these kinds of fraud cases involve
the use of fraudulent driver’s licenses or phony state
ID cards. And in the year 2005, according to the FTC, identity
theft cost American households $64 billion, and 28 percent
of those incidents likely involved the use of a phony driver’s
are three categories of people who will be very unhappy about
secure driver’s licenses: terrorists, some people who
want to get on airplanes and federal buildings and avoid terrorist
watch lists; illegal immigrants who want to work in this country
by pretending to be American citizens; and con men. And we’re
going to disappoint all three categories of these people by
announcing today’s final REAL ID rule for driver’s
with the REAL ID Act of 2005, we are publishing today the final
rule that will lay out uniform security standards for driver’s
licenses and state identification cards. And let me tell you
what the major features of the rule will be.
the rule, people seeking driver’s licenses must provide
to their state Department of Motor Vehicles documents that
prove who they are and prove that they are here in this country
legally. This is a major step forward in preventing illegal
immigrants from getting driver’s licenses. Second, Department
of Motor Vehicle offices must verify that the documents they
are being presented with are legitimate. And they have to take
steps to protect their own operations and their own databases
from identity theft and other corrupt activities. Third, licenses
issued by states now must meet tamper-proof, specific standards
that will make it much harder to counterfeit or alter a secure
driver’s license. And finally, states have to work together
to assure that individuals are not able to obtain driver’s
licenses from multiple states in an improper manner.
Let me give
you some concrete examples of how these new common-sense standards
are going to work. First, for far too long, people who came
into this country under a lawful visa and then overstayed that
visa were able to obtain driver’s licenses in many jurisdictions
that continue to be valid after the expiration date of the
original visa. What this meant was people who overstayed their
visas had a form of documentation that made it seem to the
innocent observer that they were here in the country legally.
Under today’s rule, we’re going to put a stop to
that activity. By the end of 2009, if you illegally overstay
your visa, you will not be able to get a REAL ID-compliant
Let me give
you a second example. There remain a few states that, when
presented with a Social Security number by an applicant for
a driver’s license, do not check to determine whether
that number is genuine. As a result of today’s new REAL
ID rule, those who create phony Social Security numbers will
now risk getting caught at their DMV because our rule requires
that the DMV check Social Security databases to make sure that
the number presented is genuine and real.
in the past if you presented fraudulent documents in a DMV
office while trying to get a license, you might be turned away – and
then you could go down the road to the next DMV or to the next
state, and try again. Under today’s rule, DMV employees
are going to require that you take your photograph as the first
step of the application process – as soon as you set
foot inside the door. What that means is that if we discover,
or if DMV workers discover, that you have submitted fraudulent
documents, you’re not going to be able to try again down
the road because we’re going to have a record at the
DMV of the fact that you tried and failed to get a license
the first time.
are very important and significant goals, but there are some
burdens involved, obviously, in distributing a new kind of
license. Many of the states, of course, have already begun
to take steps to secure identification. But others expressed
a concern about the business process, and the cost of these
measures, and whether they were in fact doable within the time
allotted and without undue expense and undue burden to the
addressed these concerns in a number of different ways. First,
we have taken steps in the new rule, in response to an awful
lot of comments – about 21,000 – to simplify the
business process to give the states more flexibility in terms
of the kind of security features that will satisfy our requirements,
and to extend the period of enrollment for people over the
age of 50 so as to allow the business process to work in a
somewhat more orderly and a somewhat more extended fashion.
The net result
of these changes, which do not sacrifice the core security
features of the new REAL ID license, is that we have been able
to reduce implementation costs to the states by approximately
three quarters – and that’s going to be with allowing
them a greater flexibility for their own business processes.
In order to do that, one major change that we’re making
for Americans 50 years or older is expanding their enrollment
deadline, or extending their enrollment deadline, from December
2014 to December 2017. And so we’ve built a series of
milestones which the states can meet in order to remain in
compliance with the law, and which will put them on what I
would call a gentle but nevertheless expeditious glide path
to getting the job done.
What is the
cost going to be? Well, at the end of the day, we estimate
that the average actual cost for issuing a REAL ID license
is about $8 per license at the margin. So if you’re in
a state that issues a four-year license, that means you’re
going to be paying a little bit more than $2 a year in order
to have a license that validates your identity, proves that
you are in the country legally, and is secure from being counterfeited
or tampered with by identity thieves.
I know I
speak for most Americans when I say that $2 is a very small
price to pay for increased confidence that you’ll be
safe when you get on an airplane or when you walk into a federal
building; for confidence that your identity is not going to
be stolen and misused by somebody else; for confidence that
illegal immigrants are not going to be able to pretend to be
Americans by using phony documentation. And that’s why
we think going forward with this rule is a fair balance between
important security measures and a need to make sure we are
cost-effective in what we do.
take questions, let me respond briefly to objections that I
sometimes hear, raised by civil libertarians about REAL ID,
particularly the argument that somehow REAL ID is going to
impair our privacy.
I have to
say that most of these objections are really grounded in misinformation,
so let me clarify a number of things right now. We are not
going to have a national database. REAL ID does not require
that states start to collect additional information from applicants
that they have not already created. We are not going to wind
up making this information available willy-nilly. In fact,
the steps we are taking under REAL ID will enhance and protect
privacy rather than degrade and impair privacy.
going to begin by pointing out that among the things we’re
doing under REAL ID is requiring that state motor vehicle agencies
have in place background checks and security plans for their
databases at – in terms of the motor vehicle information.
Traditionally, again and again we have seen corruption at motor
vehicle agencies leading to people improperly disseminating
personal information. These security plans and these background
checks will actually minimize the risk that employees will
improperly take that information and disseminate it.
I said, we are not building a large database for collecting
additional information. What we are doing is using the existing
network of databases, using information already held and collected
by state agencies and by the federal government, to make sure
that people cannot present phony identification by checking
that identification against the original database. So if somebody
tries to present a phony passport and substitutes a picture
of themselves for the real passport owner, by checking that
passport against the database that we have at the Department
of State with the passport page, we can see there’s a
difference in the photograph, and we can detect a potential
identity thief or other kind of con man. That again is a step
forward in terms of privacy.
we come to the core question: Is it somehow an invasion of
privacy to require that when people present identification
to come into a building or to get on an airplane that that
identification be genuine and valid? Now I guess you could
make the argument – and I know I certainly wouldn’t
make it, and I doubt you’re going to find many Americans
who would make it – but I guess you could make the argument
that you should have the right to get on an airplane without
telling anybody who you are, and that it’s wrong for
us to be able to check a watch list to see whether Mohammed
Atta, number two, is getting on an airplane. And if that’s
your position, then you’re against all identification;
you don’t want people to identify themselves in any circumstance.
But as I say, I don’t think that makes sense, and I don’t
think the American people [think that] makes sense.
that we do have a general consensus – that it is appropriate
to ask people to identify themselves in certain circumstances – the
question I have to ask is, what is the privacy argument for
making it easy to forge that identification, or to impersonate
somebody, or to lie about who you really are? I’m frankly
still waiting to hear the ACLU or somebody else get up and
explain why we are better off as a society if when someone
presents a license to get on an airplane, they can pretend
to be somebody else, or they can lie about their identity;
or that it’s good to be able to have illegal immigrants
pretend to be American citizens by stealing the identity of
somebody else, or by having a license that allows themselves
to represent themselves as legally in the country. And if they
can make the case and persuade people, then maybe we’ll – people
will push back against this rule.
I think at
the end of the day there is no argument in favor of insecure
identification. I think there is no argument in favor of making
it easy for somebody to steal my identity and invade my privacy
because it’s easy to fabricate a driver’s license
or another document. I think that anybody who looks at this
in a fair-minded and objective way is going to say, what we
are doing in REAL ID is taking a major step forward in terms
of protecting privacy, even as we protect security.
I’d like to talk a little bit about the process. This
is not – contrary to what some people say – just
the federal government big-footing itself on the states. As
I said, we had a very lengthy and frankly what I would call
an iterative process, a back-and-forth process, with state
legislators, governors, DMVs, and a whole host of interested
people between the time we issued our original proposal and
the final proposal that we’re issuing today. We had a
great deal of consultation, and if you look at the regulation
that we have issued and compare it to the original proposed
regulation, you will see some meaningful changes. So this is
very much the product of a lot of listening, a lot of careful
consideration, and frankly taking on board some good ideas
from the states and the other people who are interested in
But I will
also say there comes a point in time that all the discussion
and analysis has to stop. We are now over six years from 9/11.
We live every day with the problems of false identification.
Simply kicking this problem down the road year after year after
year for further discussion and further debate and further
analysis is a time-tested Washington way of smothering any
proposal with process. So I think we’ve given it a fair
process. Some people probably think we’ve given it too
much time. But I think the time has come to bite the bullet
and get the kind of secure identification I am convinced the
American public wants to have.
prepared to defend this against criticism. I invite people,
if they want – you know, if they want to raise privacy
arguments or other arguments, send them into us; we’ll
put it on our website and I’ll answer them on our leadership
blog, because I think the time for smothering this important
9/11 Commission recommendation with endless process and discussion
delighted to say we’re moving forward. We’re expecting
to work with the states to begin the first stages of implementation.
And as the years go by, the consequence of this is going to
be a more secure form of identification which will serve both
our homeland security and our individual concerns about personal
privacy. And now I’m happy to take questions.
Yes. I think
you got to wait for the mike.
So, as long as one state does not comply with the regulations,
can this regulation be successful?
CHERTOFF: Oh, sure. Let me tell you how this is going to work.
Under the law, we are required, by May of this year, to have
states come into compliance with REAL ID, or else to decline
to accept the states’ driver’s license for getting
on an airplane or getting in a federal building. But the law
does allow us to waive that with respect to any state that
is coming into compliance with REAL ID. And so we are creating
a path for the states to get waivers as they begin the process
of implementing the REAL ID regulations. And all they need
to do to begin with is to simply indicate that they’re
going to begin the process, and then we have a series of milestones
to make sure we move forward on a disciplined way.
percent of the people in this country already live in states
which have begun the process of moving toward REAL ID. And
I think many more states are going to be joining as soon as
we get these regulations out, and people have an opportunity
to analyze them. And I say that because we’ve had a lot
of discussion, frankly, with the major states on these issues.
Now if a
particular state were to say, “We opt out; we’re
not going to participate at all,” then the law is very
clear: after May of this year, that state’s driver’s
licenses will no longer be acceptable as a form of federal
identification for getting on an airplane or getting into a
federal building. The consequences of that is going to be,
frankly, more inconvenience for the residences of that state,
but that’s what the law requires, and I’m going
to obey the law.
Follow-up, please? Won’t illegal immigrants and others
flock to those states to get their driver’s license?
CHERTOFF: Well, I think that’s a very good question.
I think that if you have states that decline to participate
in REAL ID, they may well find that they become a magnet for
illegal immigrants, and that illegal immigrants go to get those
state driver’s licenses because they begin to see those
as the only way they can come up with some kind of ID in order
to work and stay in the country.
the public in those states is going to think that’s a
great idea, you know, to have a lot more illegal immigrants
move in. I’ll be curious to see the reaction. I can tell
you, everything I’ve seen publicly is public concern
about people who are here illegally, using documents to facilitate
their stay; and that’s particularly true when the documents
they’re using are phony documents, or documents that
misrepresent what their legal status is. So we’ll see
how this all plays out over the next several months.
Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that FTC says the cost of stolen
IDs is $64 billion, and legal, or illegal immigrants cost only
about 1 percent of that. But you seem to emphasize that the
main danger here are the illegal immigrants, in terms of theft – ID
CHERTOFF: I’m actually not emphasizing one or the other.
The most important thing from our standpoint, obviously, is
terrorists. I mean, this concern about identification was born
out of a need to make sure that when we put people on a watch
list to keep them off an airplane because they’re dangerous,
that we can determine whether someone is – who’s
watch-listed is sneaking on using another person’s identity;
that’s priority number one.
But the other
priorities follow as well. Having illegal immigrants using
phony documents; that’s a priority. Having con men steal
identity in order to rip people off is a priority. And I’m
certainly not suggesting that most illegal immigrants who use
phony documents do it to rip people off. I’m saying these
are all important concerns, and we can kill three birds with
one stone if we get ourselves on a path to a secure driver’s
(Inaudible). You said that you’re not collecting any
additional information, but you touted that as soon as people
go into a DMV, they’re going to get their picture taken.
Isn’t that collecting additional information?
CHERTOFF: Well, their picture is taken now.
Not necessarily. You can walk into a DMV and, you know, schlep
around and then get out.
CHERTOFF: Well, I guess you could. I think if you walk into
a DMV and just schlep around, they probably won’t take
your picture. (Laughter.) But if you get in there and represent
yourself as someone who is starting the process of applying
for a driver’s license, yes, they will take your picture.
And I don’t think taking your picture is any different
from the kind of information that we collect now.
Doesn’t that turn the DMV into an apparatus of the Department
of Homeland Security?
CHERTOFF: No, it turns the DMV into an apparatus of making
sure it doesn’t become victimized by people who try to
get phony driver’s licenses. You know, this is really
basic common sense. And we have to get over the idea that every
time we do something at the Department of Homeland Security
and the U.S. government it automatically is a nefarious, evil
very simple. If someone comes in and pretends to be you in
order to get your identity and steal your identity and victimize
you, it’s in your interest to prevent that from happening.
And if we’re doing our job properly, we’re helping
to protect your interest. And the way we’re doing that
is we’re saying if we catch a person who has tried to
pretend to be you, and we reject them from getting a driver’s
license, let’s make sure they don’t go down the
road to the next DMV, where maybe someone’s not quite
so vigilant, and they manage to perpetrate the scam down there.
sense, and in the end the net winner is the legitimate person;
is the person who is not going to be victimized because we’re
not going to let someone come in again and again and again
and try to beat the system.
Mr. Chertoff, can you tell me, will there be (inaudible) be
(inaudible) compliant as of May this year, or will that – do
you think that will only begin for most of the states after
the – at the end of 2009?
CHERTOFF: I think all that’s going to be required as
of May of this year is you have to begin the process, you have
to indicate you’re beginning the process and request
an extension. Many states will be much further along than that,
but I can’t tell you off the top of my head which ones
will be exactly where in the process. I think a number of states
may, though, be able to come into compliance with at least
the first stage of this within about a year.
And can you tell me exactly what’s going to happen on
May 2008 at airports across the country?
CHERTOFF: Well, what should happen, and what I’m expecting
is going to happen, is the vast majority of states are going
to be signed onto this, and therefore people will see no difference
in the way they’re handled at the airport.
If a state
were to opt out of this, then their license would no longer,
as a matter of law, be accepted as identification for getting
on an airplane. That means people from that state would have
to come up with a different form of identification, or they
might find themselves in secondary, because when people come
without proper identification and they want to fly, they do
wind up going into secondary and getting questioned.
going to be inconvenient. I mean, there’s no question
the law creates a very powerful incentive for states getting
on board with this process. It doesn’t make states do
it, but convenience and common sense strongly counsel in favor
of beginning to move down the path towards this secure form
Secretary Chertoff, a couple of questions here. Could you tell
us about the interplay between these rules today and WHTI?
And anything going on with your negotiations with New York
state on these issues?
CHERTOFF: Well, of course, we’ve announced where we are
with New York, so, I mean, that’s out and been public.
And at the time that we talked to New York and they agreed
to get on board with REAL ID, we had – as part of our
back-and-forth with all the states, we had, I think, made it
quite clear what this regulation was going to be. So there
will be no surprise for them in this; they’ve been anticipating
Just to put
it in perspective: Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative has
to do with crossing the border, in particular the land border
between the United States and either Canada and Mexico. And
as you know, in response to a lot of public demand we have
agreed to go forward with enhanced driver’s licenses
that would satisfy border crossing requirements.
driver’s licenses will automatically be compliant with
REAL ID. But they will be – have some additional features
that are relevant for crossing the border that are not relevant
for REAL ID. So you might described the enhanced driver’s
license as "REAL ID plus." And the state of Washington,
I think this month, is beginning to issue its enhanced driver’s
licenses, and other states will follow this year.
So what we
will do is, again, we’re looking to maximize the convenience
for the American public, but in a way that actually promotes
security and is consistent with privacy.
Hi, Mr. Secretary. I was just wondering if you could clear
up – I’m a little confused about the $8 and $2
figure. I remember when you were with Governor Napolitano of
Arizona, you had mentioned a $5-$6 per license fee. Could you
CHERTOFF: This is not a fee. What we’re doing is we’re
taking the current cost estimate, which may – which is
a pretty generous estimate, I might say – which is under
$4 billion for a period of 10 years nationwide. And if you
were to extrapolate that over all the licenses, it would essentially,
on a pro rata basis, come out to a cost of a little more than
$8 per license. It doesn’t mean that the states are going
to charge necessarily $8, and I should point out that we have,
in this year’s appropriations, there will be available
about $360 million for purposes of REAL ID work by the states.
So the combination
of the money we’re making available this year and the
reduced cost should largely eliminate the complaining about
an unfunded mandate.
Mr. Secretary –
CHERTOFF: Well, actually, I was pointing to the young lady
next to you.
Hi, my question is, could you answer the argument that actually
REAL ID would make it easier for people to conduct the criminality – con
men, et cetera – because what’s happening is you’re
creating this trusted card; however, you cannot guarantee that
it will never be forged. So when people forge it and it’s
trusted, therefore it would make it even easier for these con
men to be able to conduct their crimes.
CHERTOFF: You know, that’s a species of argument which
goes under the heading of “the perfect is the enemy of
the good.” There’s nothing in the world that’s
foolproof, but the idea that we should have poor forms of identification
that are easily forged and tampered with, because that way
everyone will know they’re worthless and not rely on
them, strikes me as a really bizarre argument.
We are eliminating,
through this measure, maybe 99 percent of the risk; maybe 99.9
percent of the risk. That’s a major step forward. Is
it perfect? No. And if we’re talking about, for example,
getting into a top security facility, it’s probably not
going to be enough to have a REAL ID driver’s license.
But for the vast majority of people, it is a huge benefit to
be able to have a high degree of confidence that the license
that they’re presented with is an accurate license and
that the person is who they say they are.
is for us to send a message to people that basically says a
driver’s license is useless, it has no identification
value, and it’s the kind of thing you can pick up at,
like, an amusement park when you pay a few bucks and they do
some kind of a funny identification.
wants to make the case that we’ll be safer by having
degraded and readily counterfeited documentation, I mean, you’re
welcome to make the case. It just makes no sense to me.
Secretary, how will this impact the use of the Mexican matricula
consular, which a lot of Mexicans, both legal and illegal,
use for all sorts of official business? How will this impact
CHERTOFF: Well, that document is, of course, not a driver’s
license, and I don’t want to get too far afield into
discussing other documents.
your nationality, your ability to get a driver’s license
that’s REAL ID-compliant is going to require you to establish
you are lawfully present in the country. So what that means
is, if you’re a citizen or a legal permanent resident,
you can get a – you can satisfy that requirement. If
you’re here on a two-year visa, you can get a license,
but that license will expire when your visa expires.
your basis for being here lawfully, your license will be coextensive
with that, but it’s not going to give you the ability
to use the license beyond the scope of your legality.
Mr. Secretary, what’s the logic of not having a biometric,
other than a photograph, in this kind of supposedly secure
CHERTOFF: We have nothing against a fingerprint. Some states
have fingerprints, some states don’t. Again, we’re
balancing risk. We believe the digital features of the license
we’re talking about, coupled with the embedded security
features, are sufficient to do the trick. Also, frankly, fingerprint
readers are not in sufficiently widespread use that having
a fingerprint biometric would necessarily help very much. But
states are free to have a fingerprint on, and some states do,
in fact, have a fingerprint on.
To follow up – sorry, can I follow up with the question
that, you had said that it was either poor identification or
secure identification through REAL ID. However, as I had asked,
that means that it makes it more valuable if people can forge
the REAL ID. And then, when we look at number five, which says
that employers can now trust that the secure and this trusted
identification, this means that it’s going beyond entering
nuclear facilities, boarding a plane. Now you’re talking
CHERTOFF: Well, I think what’s going to – let’s
separate two things out. Again, I just have to say, you know,
your argument that the more secure the document the worse we
are because the more we rely on it the more dangerous it becomes,
under that theory we should eliminate passports and let people
come across the border using a note written by their third-grade
teacher. I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense to say
that more security makes us more at risk. Nothing is perfect,
but if we waited for the perfect, nothing would ever get done
in human existence.
As far as
employment is concerned, we are not, under this rule, requiring
that you have a REAL ID license for employment. It is probably
reasonably predictable that as these licenses become more widely
distributed, the reliability will make them attractive to people
who are using identification for other purposes.
is a very powerful tool. When people realize that there’s
a more trustworthy form of identification, they’re going
to flock to it. And when employers realize that there’s
a more trustworthy form of identification, they’re going
to want to rely on it.
So you can’t – this
is the basic working of common sense and the free market. People
will gravitate to what works. What we need to do is enable
people by giving them a tool that is a reliable tool – and
that’s what this is all about.
Secretary Chertoff, is the – will there be any new changes
or responsibilities, relationships with sovereign tribes, especially
those – sovereign tribes, especially those that overlap
Canada and Mexico, with the U.S. and Canadian and Mexican borders?
CHERTOFF: I think the rule here with the driver’s licenses
affects – it’s not a peculiar requirement for tribes;
it doesn’t put any special burden on them. It’s
the same process you use now if you’re part of a tribe
to get a license, except that the business process will be
a little bit more reliable and the card will be more reliable.
For the person
going to through the DMV, they may not see much of a difference.
They’ll get their picture taken up front instead of at
the end, but a lot of the checking will take place behind the
scenes. It will be on the computer, it will be the person checking
the databases. But I don’t think the experience for the
average person is going to be significantly or noticeably different
than what they go through now.
Except they need to bring a lot more documents.
CHERTOFF: No, not necessarily a lot more documents. There will
be – some documents will satisfy two or three of the
requirements. For example, if you bring a passport and something
with your address, like a utility bill, that may satisfy the
requirements right there. If you bring a naturalization card
and a Social Security card or a pay stub with your Social Security
number and something to validate your address, that may satisfy
As it is
now when you go to the DMV, you do have to bring documents
with you. And so we’re going to be very clear in the
regulation about the kinds of documents that you have to bring.
And I think like with anything else, once people actually look
at what they need to get on the various websites it will be
very easy to come in with the requisite documents.
Secretary Chertoff, the date for final implementation is December
1, 2017. That’s more than 16 years after 9/11. I understand
that you have made these changes in an effort to compromise
with the states, but in the meantime, have you left a gaping
hole in homeland security for too long a period of time?
CHERTOFF: You know, I’ll tell you, I wish I could have
gotten this done last year. I mean, this is the reality of
what we face at Department of Homeland Security. On the one
hand, I feel as keenly as anybody else the urgency about getting
all these things done as quickly as possible. On the other
hand, whenever we try to do something, everybody who finds
it inconvenient or expensive starts to complain about it. And
we’ve got to try to figure out a way to reconcile the
competing demands of security with the practical realities
of what it takes to implement a major program that touches
a lot of people.
So what we
do in this area, as we do with everything else, is we manage
the risk. We say to ourselves, what is the highest risk, and
how do we take that off the table first? And then as we move
forward over time, we move to the less risky issues. That’s
why we’ve got a program to get the – phase of the
security upgrades up by the end of next year, the rest of them
up by the middle of 2011, and then our first group of people
50 and under have to be completed by the end of 2014.
Now, do I
wish we could have done it more quickly? Absolutely. Practically
everything in my domain I wish we could do more quickly. It’s
like building fence. We’re still on track to build that
fence, but we’re going to be in court pretty soon because
people are resisting us there.
So the bottom
line here is, we are – and that’s why I said the
time for process and discussion has to come to an end. We’ve
given everybody a fair hearing. We’ve had a lot of dialogue.
We’ve picked up some useful advice and we’ve incorporated
it. But the last thing I’m going to do is put this off
for 20 years.
I think we’re
on a glide path that will get us where we need to go. I’m
willing to predict, as sure as God made little green apples,
that there will be people out there who will immediately be
running to find ways to overturn what we’re doing or
to kick this further or to restart the – reboot the process
to the very beginning again. And when they do that, you’re
going to have to ask them, are they prepared to wait not ten
years but 20 years or 30 years?
So this is
a great teaching moment on the challenges of really reconfiguring
a society so that we can take reasonable steps to secure ourselves
in a way that is nevertheless consistent with our civil liberties
and our prosperity.
Mr. Secretary, would you elaborate on what will happen in those
states that opt out of it? How do people in those states get
on airplanes and into federal buildings?
CHERTOFF: You know, they’re going to wind up bringing
other documents that are satisfactory, or what will happen
is, if they don’t have other documents, they’re
going to have to face what people face now when they show up
at the airport and they don’t have identification, which
is, they wind up going into secondary and we try to validate
who they are.
thing I want to do is punish citizens of a state who would
love to have a REAL ID driver’s license and can’t
get one because the state has voted to opt out of the program.
And there will be other kinds of documentation available at
the federal level, like, for example, the new PASS card that
the State Department is going to start taking applications
for in February; the traditional passport. If you’re
in a northern state and you have NEXUS, that can do the trick.
will be other options. I’m going to make a prediction
that the public demand for having secure identification is
going to be overwhelming. And we’ll try to work with
people whose states have opted out. But in the end, the rule
is the rule. It was passed by Congress, it was enacted into
the law of the land, and I’m obliged to enforce it.
What is the minimum time for a foreign-born person staying
legally in the U.S. would need to apply for REAL ID? And if
REAL ID is for tourists?
CHERTOFF: It’s not for tourists because if you come in
as a tourist, it’s usually a three-month period of time
or a short period of time.
be something, for example, if you come in as a student, you
get a two-year visa as a student. That will be the kind of
temporary status that would make it sensible to have this kind
of a license.
And of course,
we’re going to key in – one of the ways we’re
going to key in the licensing process is by having it connected
to our Citizen and Immigration Service database. So if someone
does come in with a visa, the DMV will be able to validate
that it’s a legitimate visa with the Citizenship and
Immigration Services database. And if the time comes that Congress
passes some kind of temporary worker program or enhances a
temporary worker program, we can adjust to take account of
those visas as well.
is ultimately to have a system that, as common sense would
tell you, is synchronized, where your period of lawful presence
in the country matches up to your period of a REAL ID license.
And once we complete this process, that’s going to make
it easier for the person who’s here legitimately, and
it’s going to be easier for everybody who interacts with
that person, because they’re going to have reliability
and confidence in the documents they’re being presented