Residency rule might apply to licenses


POSTED: Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hawaii might prohibit illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses as the state tries to comply with the stricter requirements of the Real ID federal security law.




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        » HB 134: capitol.hawaii.gov

State lawmakers are considering legislation that would require people seeking driver's licenses to show proof that they are legally in the United States.

The measure would bring Hawaii a step closer to fulfilling the Real ID law, which tightens immigration rules and forces states to replace their driver's licenses and ID cards with more secure documents. When the law is implemented, the federal government will accept only these new ID cards for activities like boarding airline flights and entering federal buildings.

It is unlikely that Hawaii's proposed legislation would change much on the state's roads because drivers already have to show Social Security cards before they can get a driver's license, said Dennis Kamimura, licensing administrator for Honolulu's driver's licensing office.

“;I don't think we have illegal immigrants driving around with a legal driver's license,”; Kamimura said.

Hawaii is one of only six states that does not have a law requiring driver's license applicants to show that they have a “;legal presence”; in the country. The others are Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.

States have until the end of 2010 to comply with the Real ID law. Its requirements could change under the Obama administration, and no state has met all of the law's mandates.

The measure to bar illegal immigrants will get its first hearing tomorrow before the House Transportation Committee.

“;I really wanted us to have a thorough and thoughtful discussion on the issue, because I don't know if we've had one before,”; said Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa), who introduced the bill.

In addition to the immigration rules, Hawaii is behind in many other areas specified by the Real ID law, Kamimura said.

The law did not provide money for its implementation, the state-by-state computer network to verify identification is not ready and details about how the new ID will look have not been determined, he said.

“;Everybody is working toward it, but not everybody is convinced we can achieve it in the time frame the current law requires,”; said state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka. “;Our concerns and our questions are repeating themselves in almost every other state.”;