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ACLU Lawsuit Halts NJ Tru-Id Driver’s License [AUDIO]

The American Civil Liberties Union has “put the brakes” on New Jersey’s new driver’s license.

ACLU Lawsuit
Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media

The group filed a lawsuit against the state Motor Vehicle Commission, alleging the Tru-ID was being implemented without public notice.

ACLU officials, joined by advocates for homeless, immigration and women’s groups, said at a news conference Monday that the injunction was sought mainly on claims that the state imposed the system, known as TRU-ID, without publishing details or soliciting public comment as required under state law.

“This lawsuit was about process,” ACLU New Jersey legal director Ed Barocas said. “It was filed because the state and MVC tried to implement TRU-ID unlawfully, by going around the constitutional mandate.”

Previously, people could simply state their Social Security numbers to get a license. Under the new standards, they would have to show the card itself or a pay stub or tax documents. They also would have to show two proofs of residence, rather than the one that’s required now. And if a passport is used, it would have to be current and not recently expired.

“By turning the driver’s license into a national identity document, Tru-ID would subject folks to an enormous amount of invasion to their personal privacy and open them up to the potential of identity theft” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, a member of New Jersey Citizen Action.

The new requirements would bring the state in line with the federal Real ID Act, which set national standards for driver’s licenses and other IDs used for boarding commercial flights and entering federal buildings.

More than 20 states have opted not to conform to the federal legislation, ACLU executive director Deborah Jacobs said.

In addition to privacy concerns, the ACLU-NJ’s lawsuit also addresses the potential impact of TRU-ID on some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities with regard to civil rights and personal safety. The regulation’s requirement that all documents, including birth certificates, be in English imposes a burden on anyone born in a non-English speaking country. Likewise, the homeless will have difficulty proving their citizenship. In addition, it is uncertain whether there are exceptions for victims of domestic violence, who are currently allowed to use an alternate address for all state and local government purposes, rather than their actual home addresses, which could jeopardize their safety.

“Many of them can not prove residency due to lack of address and don’t have regular mail to use as something for them to get a state id” said Herb Levine, of the Mercer County Alliance To End Homelessness.

Although the state has not shared the costs of TRU-ID with the public, the MVC said in a 2006 report that implementation of Real ID “imposes severe logistical and financial requirements” upon New Jersey. Moreover, the costs to implement Real ID may not even be necessary. In 2008, after 25 states outright refused to comply with Real ID, the Department of Homeland Security released regulations acknowledging that it could not enforce Real ID compliance.

“When the MVC rolled out its 6-Point ID verification in 2003, it bragged that the IDs met the standards of the Department of Homeland Security” said Jacobs. “We shouldn’t waste New Jersey tax dollars on a moribund program that Americans on all sides have rejected.”

MVC’s Response

MVC officials have said that any delays in implementing the standards would pose a serious disruption for drivers and adversely affect other program changes the MVC is planning.

“We are extremely disappointed by the ACLU’s last-minute move to block implementation of new federal identity requirements,” the MVC said in a statement. “Like other states around the nation, New Jersey was implementing the identification program to meet those federal requirements. This action adversely impacts over 3 million drivers and ID holders who are up against a December 2014 enforcement deadline.”

“It is our hope that this issue will be resolved as quickly as possible in the courts and we will be able to move forward with the necessary implementation plans.”

Six Points Still In Effect

The ACLU motion was filed on Friday before the new requirements were to take effect, so customers who went to the MVC found that the 6 point ID is still in effect.

The ACLU and the MVC are scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 3rd to present oral arguments about the matter. The judge’s order holds that injunction will remain in place at least until that time.

The MVC has also removed all reference to the TRU ID program from its website.

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