This editorial appeared in the Peninsula Clarion:
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Recently, we've heard, read and seen stories of protests in Los Angeles as people have taken to the streets in opposition of new proposed immigration plans.
While Alaska does not really fear an influx of our Canadian neighbors "sneaking" across the border, this legislative session does bring the point home locally: Should U.S. citizenship, or at least proof of being here legally, be a prerequisite to obtaining an Alaska driver's license?
Senate Bill 189 by Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, would require just that. It goes on to require the Department of Motor Vehicles to fix the expiration date of the license to the ending date of the legal stay of a visitor, such as a student here from abroad.
Is this a good idea? We think so, in spite of token opposition from those who maintain the stance it's better to license illegal aliens so they can obtain auto insurance than to force them to drive without a license.
This logic is flawed in the face of common sense. First, why would we seek to reward a person not legally allowed to be here? Second, while it's called a driver's license, it's a safe bet this small piece of plastic comes out of your wallet or purse more often when cashing a check or boarding an airplane than to satisfy a request by a police officer.
The overriding factor in all this debate is a new federal mandate called the Real ID Act. This act passed overwhelmingly in Congress and was signed into law by President Bush. In this act, all 50 states are required to meet certain, specific criteria before their DMV is allowed to issue licenses and ID cards.
State DMV Director Duane Bannock said Alaska is not far from meeting this mandate, however, legislation proposed in SB 189 is critical to meeting that goal.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the Real ID Act. Unfortunately, many are based on unfounded fears that this is just one step toward a national ID card as predicted in George Orwell's best-selling book, "1984."
Let's face the facts: Our world changed in many ways on Sept. 11, 2001. Asking DMV to be part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem is a small step in the right direction.
If you believe, like we do, that this is good legislation, we urge you to contact your elected officials in Juneau and ask them to pass SB 189.
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