My Montana vehicle tags expire at the end of this month. In the interest of neatly compartmentalizing official Colorado residency duties, I decided I should also get a Colorado driver’s license around the same time I get Colorado plates. Thus, I headed to the Colorado DMV website to learn what I should bring with me. From its driver’s license FAQ:
To apply for a license, instructional permit or duplicate, you must:
- Submit 2 primary forms of identification. One form must establish lawful presence. Please see FAQ #1 for a complete list of acceptable identification documents.
- Provide your Social Security Number.
- Supply a Colorado residence address.
- Pass all required examinations (written, vision and road performance).
- Pay the required fee.
- Be fingerprinted and photographed.
The emphasis above was mine. So, um, I have to be fingerprinted to get my CO driver’s license?!
Refusing to believe that the website information was correct, I called my local DL office. They confirmed that one digital fingerprint was taken for “security purposes.” In other words, if someone came in to get a license claiming to be me, they couldn’t if their fingerprint didn’t match. Hmmm, for my security then? I was skeptical. As my local DL Office rep could give me no information as to where the information goes and what government agencies have access to it, I placed a call to the Colorado State Driver’s License Administration office. On my second customer rep, I struck upon useful though dubious information: Colorado is a “central issue” state. This means that once I apply for a driver’s license, my information is sent to the federal government in DC, it goes into their database, then my license is sent back to me. So for a recap:
Even though I am not a criminal, my fingerprints are now forevermore in a governmental database for no reason other than that I moved and wanted to get a new driver’s license.
This is a result of the Real ID Act which was passed because of its connection to a military spending bill (another topic of contention). The Act, besides violating my privacy, hands even more power to the inauspicious Department of Homeland Security.
So, what do I do in the meantime? Wait (my Montana license is good until 2012) until the ACLU has a chance to mount legal opposition to the bill? If I get my DL now and the Act is overturned, my information is still sitting out in a database. Realistically, I doubt that I really have any other option than getting a DL and being fingerprinted.
As part of the bigger picture, this legislation scares me. How much are we willing to give up for some perceived measure of security? Is living in a police state a price we’re willing to pay to “be secure.” Also, history shows us not to trust our government unconditionally, so why now are people so willing to give up civil liberties? Government officials didn’t suddenly get more trustworthy.
As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Does anyone know the official status of the Real ID Act? Has the ACLU taken any steps to overturn it or test its legality? Can I refuse to give a fingerprint?