WASHINGTON—Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has come out in support of national standards for driver’s licenses, as proposed in several bills being pushed by Republicans in Congress.
The driver’s license is “the most standard form of ID” across the country, Ridge said, so it made sense to “ask the states to buy into a baseline set of national standards.”
“As a governor, I would not have felt put upon by that,” Ridge, who was governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001, said in a conference call Friday.
Two bills introduced in the House, and one planned for the Senate, address the issue, which was highlighted by the Sept. 11 commission in its report last year.
At present, states, through legislation or policy, can authorize motor vehicle administrators to issue licenses to whomever they wish, verifying the applicant’s identity with whatever documents they decide to require.
The proposals before Congress wouldn’t change that, but they would establish minimum standards that states would have to meet if their licenses were to be acceptable as identity documents to the federal government—for instance to board airplanes or get access to court buildings.
And the standards would include the controversial legal presence requirement—those applying for a license would have to prove either they were citizens or that they were lawfully in the United States. For non-citizen holders of temporary visas, the license issued would expire on the same date the visa did.