Arizona's Internal Passport

  Vin's been calling the drivers license an "internal passport" for years! Now it is!

Super IDs for Arizona in works

Homeland Security wants driver's license that serves as passport

Sean Holstege

The Arizona Republic
Aug. 25, 2007 12:00 AM

Arizona could be the first state along the Mexican border and one of the first in the country to develop a driver's license secure enough to be used in lieu of a passport at a port of entry.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced an agreement Friday with Arizona to use new, more-expensive, state-issued licenses as a valid ID for entering the country.

New U.S. travel restrictions with stricter documentation requirements take effect next year for the Western Hemisphere.

Creating tamper-proof IDs is critical in Arizona. Nearly 12 million pedestrians and 9.5 million vehicles passed through Arizona's six controlled international border crossings last year.

At those ports of entry, customs agents have to review more than 8,000 valid forms of identification.

Arizona issued nearly 1.3 million driver's licenses last year.

Gov. Janet Napolitano's office thinks the new license, still only a concept, may cost $4 million to develop and could be paid for by an increase in fees.

A license now costs $10 to $25, depending on the age of the applicant. Getting a more-secure license would be voluntary.

Job-seekers could use the new driver's license to prove work eligibility under the state's tough new employer-sanctions law and to avoid prosecution under the recently announced federal crackdown on hiring undocumented workers.

Washington and Vermont already have government approval to develop a secure driver's license that can be used for international travel in the Americas.

Vermont pushed for approval after a rush on passports created a backlog.

Starting Jan. 31, U.S. citizens will need a valid government-issued ID and proof of citizenship to enter the country.

The Arizona Legislature must approve development of the new licenses, which Homeland Security said could satisfy the requirements of the controversial Real ID Act.

The act was written in response to a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, because all but one of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers used fake identities to travel.

By law, every state must issue tamper-proof IDs by 2010. Rules are expected by the end of the year.

Nationally, since 2005, customs officials have seized 90,000 fraudulent documents and stopped 60,000 people making false citizenship claims at the borders.

Nonetheless, 16 states have passed laws opposing compliance with the Real ID Act.

Arizona is not among them, but earlier this year, Napolitano testified in Washington, D.C., that costs of compliance would cripple state budgets.