Homeland Security Takes Exception to California License Design

The state of California, and other Western states in the country, are at the epicenter of the debate surrounding what the United States should do about illegal immigration. In an effort to normalize the statuses of thousands of people living in the state illegally, California has announced a proposal that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses. However, after a recent review of the proposed license design, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement which indicated that the design does not meet national security standards.

In a letter to California officials, Homeland Security told the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles that the proposed licenses must indicate, somewhere on its face, that it cannot be used as federal identification.

The letter also indicated that the license should be a unique color or contain a unique design when compared to licenses given to citizens and legal residents. Without the updates, the licenses would not be in compliance with the REAL ID Act, which is a federal initiative that was passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with the goal of standardizing national ID protocols, said assistant secretary for policy, David Heyman.

The discrepancy between California’s proposed license design and the design criteria the federal government requires belies a deeper dispute. Immigrant advocates in California wish to make the licenses for illegal immigrants resemble all other licenses as closely as possible.  But federal authorities wish to include obvious distinguishing features.

Homeland security authorities say that the markers will make it easier for federal agents to identify such licenses at federally controlled buildings, such as airports and federal workplaces.

For now, the California DMV has declined to comment on whether or not the state will change the license design or delay the scheduled January 2015 issue date for the licenses.