The council’s Transportation Committee initially voted to give illegal aliens licenses that would be identical to the licenses that the city issues to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. The committee said it intended to do so on the grounds that “marked” licenses would “unintentionally reveal the immigration status of all District residents.”
However, the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 requires states to obtain “evidence of lawful status” before issuing driver's licenses that can be used as identification when boarding commercial airplanes or entering federal buildings.”
According to the 911 Commission Report, preventing foreigners from obtaining state-issued identification that allows them to open bank accounts and rent vehicles is a critical part of national security.
However, D.C. Council members considered it more important to provide driver's licenses to illegal aliens than assist with federal counterterrorism efforts. “If the federal government wishes to imbed immigration status into acceptable identification for federal purposes, it should create a national federal identification card, instead of co-opting the identification issued by state agencies,” the Transportation Committee report stated. (See Transportation Committee Report.pdf)
“The Committee believes the potential harm to the District’s undocumented residents outweighs the requirement that the District comply with REAL ID--a requirement that has never been enforced in the eight year history of the law,” the report added.
However, the council later backed away from a direct confrontation with federal law by reluctantly agreeing to the specially marked license for illegal aliens that was initially proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray.
“A driver license, permit or identification card issued under this section shall clearly state on its face and in its machine-readable zone that it is not acceptable by federal agencies for official purposes,” the current bill reads.
If passed, the District of Columbia Drivers Safety Amendment Act of 2013 will allow anybody who is “unable to present documentation issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services authorizing the person’s presence in this country” to qualify for a D.C. drivers license, which would be valid for eight years.
Under the proposed legislation, which was introduced on May 2 by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson at the request of Mayor Gray, illegal aliens who have resided in the District for more than six months can submit a “valid unexpired passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship” or a “foreign birth certificate,” both of which must be accompanied by a “certified translation” if necessary.
Under a mayoral order signed by Gray on Oct. 19, 2011, D.C. is a sanctuary city in which municipal officials are not allowed to inquire about a person’s immigration status or detain individuals “solely on the belief that he or she is not present legally in the United States.” (See Mayor's Order 2011-174.pdf)
The District’s Metropolitan Police Department is prohibited from making arrests “solely based on administrative warrant for arrest or removal by ICE into the National Crime Information Center database” – including those with outstanding deportation warrants. The D.C. Dept. of Corrections is also not allowed to send a list of foreign-born jail inmates to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security for processing.