Letter Urging Senate to Oppose REAL ID Act from 9/11 Families

Dear Senator

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows urge you to oppose H.R. 418, the REAL ID Act if it is presented to you either as part of the Supplemental Appropriations bill or as separate legislation to be amended to that bill. A measure with such long term and serious consequences has absolutely no place within "must pass" legislation. Rather, this measure deserves careful, thoughtful, and public debate. The bill's House sponsors contend that this measure is necessary to enhance our nation's security. Instead, it would make our highways more dangerous, undermine our security; and impose guilt by association. Further, it would prevent some people fleeing persecution from obtaining asylum, and grant unprecedented power to a federal agency.

As an organization composed of family members of those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks, we are vigilant in promoting measures that enhance our security. We also have a special responsibility to point out measures that use our concern about this nation's safety and security to promote an entirely different agenda. Sadly, that is the case with H.R. 418.

H.R. 418 will NOT make us safer. Rather it will:

Prevent people fleeing persecution from obtaining relief: Some asylum seekers are actually fleeing from the very countries the United States government has labeled as supportive of terrorist activity. Asylum applicants already undergo more extensive security checks than any other foreign nationals who come to this country. Terrorists and others who pose a danger to our security are already ineligible for asylum.

Make our highways more dangerous and undermine our security: The intelligence reform bill that Congress passed last year already addresses the concerns raised by the 9/11 Commission regarding driver's licenses and identity documents. However, HR 418's proposal to set federal eligibility requirements for driver's licenses, including restrictions on immigrants' access to licenses, would undermine, not enhance, national security by pushing people deeper into the shadows and forcing many more to drive without a license in order to earn a living. Such a result would severely undermine the law enforcement utility of Department of Motor Vehicles databases by limiting, rather than expanding, government data about individuals in this country.

Impose guilt by association: The proposal to permit deportation of non-citizens who are members of or support any political organization that has used violence, even if the organization has not been designated as a "foreign terrorist organization," is misguided. This proposal to impose guilt by association leaves out what we believe to be a basic component of wrong-doing: intent. With its retroactive application, it could be used to deport long-term, lawful residents, even if the association rendering them deportable occurred decades earlier and was legal at the time.

Grant sweeping powers to the Secretary of Homeland Security: This legislation would give unprecedented authority to the Secretary by waiving all laws in order to expedite the construction of barriers between the United States and Mexico. As written, HR 418 contains a dangerously broad mandate which bars certain judicial review and sends an ominous message about the relationship between checks and balances, and security.

Congress got it right when it debated and passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 without these ill-conceived provisions. We urge the Senate to reject HR 418, and instead, work on comprehensively reforming our immigration system so that immigration is legal, safe, orderly, and responsive to the needs of American families, businesses, and national security.

The September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Personal Member statements: As someone whose grandparents were immigrants seeking a better life for their children, it is alarming to me that such anti-immigrant sentiments would be expressed as a reaction to September 11th. I hope the Senate will give appropriate consideration to this legislation by debating it on the floor.

Adele Welty
Mother of Firefighter Timothy Welty
WTC, September 11, 2001

My husband immigrated from Canada in 1959; his father escaped terrorism in Serbia at age 15: My grandsons were born in Russia and a daughter-in-law was born in Holland. Everyone came here for a better life- are we going to deny that to others because of Sept.11? Not in my husband's name!

Loretta Filipov
Wife of Alexander M. Filipov
AA Flight #11, September 11, 2001

In 1990, my husband, Luis Eduardo Torres, came to the United States illegally from Colombia. After he died on September 11, 2001, The New York Times entitled his obituary, "A Man of Achievement," and his biography is similar to many immigrants of previous generations who came to our shores to find democracy and opportunity and who succeeded despite the many obstacles they faced.

I urge the Senate, therefore, to consider the contributions of immigrants to this country, legal and illegal, before and after 9/11, in order to recognize how misguided this anti-immigration legislation is in its supposed goal of making our country more secure.

Alissa Rosenberg Torres
Wife of Luis Eduardo Torres
Cantor Fitzgerald, 105th Floor, WTC North

I came to America in 1979 with my thirteen month first-born son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani. On September 11, 2005, I lost him at the WTC II. We came in search of the American Dream, which was cruelly shattered that day. My Salman was very proud to be an American Citizen, and as such, his sacrifice was acknowledged by the Congress in The Patriot Act I, Section 102. Ironically, he was accused and investigated as a terrorist. His reputation was redeemed when his remains, in thirty-four pieces, were found outside the North Tower. Last year, his father died of heart break, on July 21, 2004.

Now the Congress wants to protect me by taking away my basic, God given fundamental rights of Life, Liberty and Justice. This just does not make sense to me. On December 10, 1948, the General assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with its Thirty Articles. HR418 is in violation of these articles and can be justified only under one circumstance: America withdraws from the United Nations.

Mrs. Talat G. Hamdani
Mother of Mohammad Salman Hamdani
NYPD cadet, WTC II.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 05040669.