Washington, DC - The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., denounced the passage of the “REAL ID Act,” included as part of the Iraqi supplemental appropriations bill which achieved final passage today in Congress.

“Latinos are deeply committed to fixing our broken immigration system, and we look to the President and Congress to push for comprehensive immigration reform,” stated Janet Murguia, NCLR President and CEO. “But the ‘REAL ID Act’ is a great step backward in the road toward meaningful reform.”

The “REAL ID Act” will have severe consequences for states, licensed drivers and those seeking to obtain licenses, as well as Latinos and immigrants. First, it will force all states into a costly and unnecessary overhaul of their driver’s license policies. It will place additional burdens on all driver’s license applicants who will have to prove U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status, resulting in red tape, delays, and increased fees. In addition, the “REAL ID Act” will create a multitiered system in which U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will have one type of license, and lawful temporary immigrants will have an easily distinguishable temporary license. This type of system opens the door to widespread discrimination and civil rights violations. Finally, because many drivers will be ineligible for licenses or will be discouraged from obtaining them, “REAL ID” will take away a key law enforcement tool by excluding large numbers of residents from the comprehensive government driver’s license database which is used to track down and capture criminals as well as terrorists.

The “REAL ID Act” will also place strict restrictions on asylum seekers, making it much more difficult for persons fleeing persecution to get relief in the U.S., and will deny legal immigrants the ability to challenge their detention.

The “REAL ID Act” has been touted as a national security measure. However, it would not have prevented any of the 9/11 terrorists - all of whom had valid passports from their home countries as well as visas issued by the U.S. government - from getting on planes, and it takes valuable resources away from more effective counterterrorism initiatives.

“It is very disturbing that the ‘REAL ID Act’ bypassed all regular congressional channels and was rammed through on the Iraqi supplemental bill,” continued Murguia. “The ‘REAL ID Act’ was attached to the appropriations bill by the House of Representatives. It was never debated in or passed by the Senate and never went through regular committee processes in either chamber.”

“It is particularly offensive that these provisions are part of the bill funding our troops in Iraq and tsunami victims in Asia. There are so many Latino soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq, and this bill will ultimately hurt their families and communities in the U.S.,” concluded Murguia. “The Latino community will hold our nation’s leaders accountable for this extremely damaging and irresponsible piece of legislation.”