by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — If you’re thinking of traveling within the US and do not have a valid US visa, think twice.
Last week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) questioned a Filipino woman trying to board a domestic flight from New Jersey to Chicago. After being held briefly, the woman carrying an unexpired RP passport was arrested by TSA for not having a valid US visa or green card.
“They gave her a ‘notice to appear’ deportation slip,” said Michael Gurfinkel, the woman’s attorney.
According to Gurfinkel, TSA is now checking a person’s legal status when boarding a domestic flight in the US.
“TSA has moved their role in the airport from checking luggage to now ID’s,” said Gurfinkel. He added that the TSA assumed responsibility for checking ID’s last year.
This new layer of aviation security was implemented in June 2007. Six months into the program, TSA security officers were able to confiscate thousands of illegal or expired documents including passports, visas and driver’s licenses. Arrests and deportation procedures ensued as the TSA is mandated to refer suspects to law enforcement agencies.
Currently, the system is in place at more than 340 airports and will be further expanded into other airports in Spring 2008.
“Domestic flying is not something you encounter immigration with. But now they will be checking a person with a foreign passport for a valid visa and/or green card.”
“It’s no longer 100 percent for TNT’s to fly domestically just using their passport,” he added.
Filipinos and FilAms may also need to carry a valid passport and visa when boarding a domestic flight and/or visiting a federal building starting 2010.
The Department of Homeland Security released its final regulations for the implementation of the Real ID Act last Friday January 9. Congress passed the Act with little debate under a military spending bill in May 2005.
Under the new Federal ID plan, the Real ID will replace a State driver’s license. Starting 2010, a person who does not have a Real ID may no longer use a driver’s license to be able to board an airplane, or enter a federal building. That person must use a valid passport and visa or green card as their primary identification.
The regulations also said, “By then, States must upgrade the security of their license systems, to include a check for lawful status of all applicants, to ensure that illegal aliens cannot obtain REAL ID licenses.”
Over the next year, people seeking to renew their driver’s license will have to visit their local Department of Motor Vehicles and bring with them a photo ID, birth certificate, documentation of legal status and social security number, and documentation showing name and principal residence address.
Also, the DMV will take a person’s picture before processing the application. Those whose paperwork is incorrect or who are suspected as illegals or undocumented aliens will have their picture stored in a national network-linked database.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the Real IDs would help combat identify fraud.
“The American public’s desire for greater identity protection is undeniable,” said Secretary Chertoff. “Americans understand today that the 9/11 hijackers obtained 30 driver’s licenses and ID’s, and used 364 aliases. For an extra $8 per license, Real ID will give law enforcement and security officials a powerful advantage against falsified documents, and it will bring some peace of mind to citizens wanting to protect their identity from theft by a criminal or illegal alien.”
However, dozens of States across the US and civil liberties union have condemned the Act. Utah lawmakers cite that the Real ID opposes the Jeffersonian principles of individual liberty and limited government.
The American Civil Liberties Union believes that the Real ID does more harm than good.
The ACLU is worried that the implementation of the Real ID Act could establish an enormous electronic infrastructure that government and law enforcement officials or hackers could use to track Americans’ activities and movements.
“This national mega-database would be a goldmine for identity thieves,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “There’s no reason that a DMV worker in Guam should be able to see a grandmother in Schenectady’s Social Security number. Our private information would only be as safe as the DMV or state office with the weakest security system.”
“While the rhetoric focuses on undocumented immigrants it did much more than that,” added Tyler Moran of the National Immigration Law Center. “What people are realizing is this act is going to affect every single person.”