With the new Arizona immigration law dominating discussions on the blogosphere, the Tenth Amendment Center has been tracking other states that have introduced 10th Amendment legislation. We checked in with Michigan to talk with State Representative Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt), where we got his take in the interview below on Arizonaâ€™s SB-1070 as it relates to the Tenth Amendment and related legislation like REAL ID.
TAC: Rep. Opsommer, thank-you for being with us.
Opsommer: Thank-you for having me.
TAC: The Arizona legislature is being criticized for passing this law because Obama claims it allows the states to overstep their Constitutional bounds. What do you think of that statement?
Opsommer: Well, the Constitution is supposed to be more about federal bounds, and states are supposed to have all power that is not expressly with the federal government. But the statements of the Obama administration are certainly in line with the current way of thinking in Washington, where the federal government has little concern with ignoring the Constitution by trampling on Statesâ€™ powers, but theyâ€™re suddenly now very interested in proper balance at the state and federal level when the shoe is on the other foot. Iâ€™d certainly welcome any discussion they want to have on the subject, and this may go to court, but they have to be willing to also talk about their many obvious violations of the 10th Amendment.
TAC: Such as what? As a vice-chair of transportation I know you have been heavily involved with REAL ID.
Opsommer: That would certainly be one example. Despite REAL ID floundering, they are still pushing federal and even international standards onto our state ID cards under different program names, rules, and guises. In Michigan we now have these RFID chips in our Enhanced Drivers Licenses for no reason other than that the bureaucrats at DHS want them in there. They sometimes justify it as having to meet international standards such as the United Nations ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization], or the best practices of AAMVA [American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators], but really itâ€™s not necessary or really defensible in any credible way. You have to remember, even AAMVA is just an international 501c3 with Canadian and Mexican members. AAVMA would likely be the administrator of REAL ID.
TAC: Some people have been concerned that Arizonaâ€™s new immigration law might mean that their DMVs would have to comply with REAL ID if the federal government said its use was part of federal immigration policy. Do you share that concern?
Opsommer: It is important for me to say that at this date I have only skimmed various versions of Arizona SB-1070, the person who is going to be introducing it here in Michigan has not finished getting it drafted yet. But itâ€™s my impression that early versions of the AZ bill wanted to prohibit state agencies or local governments from taking up internal bureaucratic policies that might circumvent the transferring of information on illegal immigrants to ICE. But there was then some concern that based on wording the feds could flip it the other way, and use the law to say that the State DMVs would then be handcuffed into going along with whatever REAL ID might ultimately call for regarding the sharing of information on legal citizens, or having to adopt RFID chips or other international standards. But I donâ€™t think they want to share the data of their legal citizens in some haphazard way, and I believe they have addressed that to some degree.
TAC: Addressed that how?
Opsommer: Well, they inserted a clause that said that nothing in SB-1070 could be construed to mean that Arizona had to comply with REAL ID just because they were getting tough on illegal immigration via this law. I mean, that is what we did in Michigan. Our Attorney General [Mike Cox] made it clear that illegal immigrants could not get driverâ€™s licenses, and we were able to make that state law without letting the feds take over our driverâ€™s licenses databases. The feds tried to create this weak link that the only way we could get involved in immigration issues is if we went along with their REAL ID scheme that included more harm than good. We totally bypassed that here and denied licenses to illegal immigrants without getting the feds involved. Arizona is just doing the same thing.
TAC: But Michigan did go along and create Enhanced Driverâ€™s Licenses though, right? The one with the RFID chip?
Opsommer: Unfortunately, Michigan did let itself get bullied into creating what the feds call an EDL (Enhanced Drivers Licenses) with a chip, even though Congress passed no law where you have to have a chip in it in order to have an EDL. There is still a lot of unanswered questions regarding foreign data sharing as well, similar to what I have with the AAMVA Driverâ€™s License Agreement I just mentioned. Weâ€™re still trying to fight that after the fact, Arizona is simply being more proactive there. They not only passed a law making the EDLs illegal because of the false RFID mandate, but they then also included that RFID restriction in their anti REAL ID language that they put into SB-1070.
TAC: Why did Arizona do that?
Opsommer: They were cognizant of the fact that the very same folks in Washington who wonâ€™t close or protect our borders are also the same ones who want to do all these things with our licenses that are common in China in regards to tracking citizens. These are the same people who wanted to rely only on a virtual fence instead of real barriers. These are the same folks who waste a lot of our DHS budget on bells and whistles that ignore our real security concerns because they want to keep some technology company donors happy. Getting back to AAMVA, there was also concern that if the feds adopted the foreign data sharing policies of the Drivers License Agreement that the would then have to share data with their counterparts in Mexico and Canada, even if that was against state law. I think it was a good step for them to include the provisions.
TAC: Do you think those provisions are enough?
Opsommer: Well, its certainly a good start for now, but things are also changing quickly. You have to remember that itâ€™s not what you call one of these national ID programs that matters. Whether itâ€™s REAL ID, the Drivers License Agreement, PASS ID, or Enhanced Drivers Licenses, you have to focus on what those programs might do rather than what they are called. Iâ€™m guessing eventually youâ€™ll see the legislators in AZ addressing these other programs as they are rolled out, or banning root level policies that they donâ€™t want foisted upon their citizenry no matter what the license gets called, especially when it comes to the international sharing of the data of their lawful persons. I donâ€™t know too many state legislators who want to do that, and we donâ€™t want to cut off our nose to spite our face. Who wants to see a drug-lord in Mexico who has infiltrated their government being able to access our DMVs?
TAC: Why is the federal government so intent then on turning driverâ€™s licenses into national or even international ID cards that merely come in 50 different state flavors? Do they really think they are fooling anyone? Couldnâ€™t the feds just do this on their own and create a national ID card directly?
Opsommer: They certainly could, and I think whether or not this country sees a true national ID card that everyone has to carry will soon be a big debate. I mean, for example, they could just require that everyone has to get a federal passport, even to fly from one state to another, or to buy a firearm, or whatever. But from a federal perspective, it would take a lot of work and money for them to expand the federal passport system that way, and then the folks in Congress would have to be at the frontlines of that debate with the American people. Many people in America donâ€™t have a valid passport right now, and the majority of them that do only carry it on them a couple days a year.
I think they would much prefer to just take over the stateâ€™s licensing infrastructure and just outsource it onto us as a way to duck some federal privacy restrictions they can work around by having us do their work for them. The states would be the ones taking the heat, and they could try to hide from it to some extent. I mean the way they are acting now, itâ€™s like they donâ€™t even want people to get federal passports anymore, they would rather we turn our driverâ€™s licenses into passports that must then meet international standards and kill two birds with one stone. For example, they are right now artificially raising passport fees yet again, and it still takes way longer to get them than it should, it is like they are intentionally driving away the business. That is the only reason anyone is getting EDLs in Michigan, it is because they have made the alternative so intentionally bad. So when it comes to immigration policy and ID cards Washington wants to have the very best of both worlds.
Opsommer: Meaning that in areas where they like the status quo, like an immigration policy with porous borders, they want to make it hard for the states to do anything, like what we are seeing with them fighting Arizona. But in cases where they want to outsource things onto the states because itâ€™s easier for them they then have little trouble trampling on the 10th Amendment. Washington is going to find that it canâ€™t have it both ways, that there is a proper role for both the federal and state levels of government, and it shouldnâ€™t shift just because of who wants what at the time.
TAC: Rep. Opsommer, thank-you for your time.
Paul Opsommer is a State Representative in Michigan’s 93rd District.