On April 1, 2007 a law mandating Wisconsin driver license applicants to prove legal U.S. residency took effect. The law was passed the prior year by state lawmakers as part of compliance with the Real ID Act. Real ID is a federal mandate meant to combat terrorism, in part, by toughening driver license requirements.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces De La Frontera, says the state law not only disenfranchises undocumented immigrants, but also legal immigrants and American citizens who don't have access to a social security number. The Milwaukee-based advocate calls this a public safety issue as more persons are likely to skip the DMV altogether and drive without a license. Consequently, she says insurance companies have are claiming they must charge more in premiums as a greater number of accidents are occurring because of people not familiar with the "rules of the road."
Recently a State Senate Finance Committee shifted $22 million set aside for Real ID to fund designed to fill the massive budget deficit. She cites this move as an example of trying to pay for the unfunded federal mandate.
"What's happened now is where you have states essentially trying to be compliance (with Real ID) but are finding they cannot and that's exactly what's happened in Wisconsin."
Wisconsin has been given an extension until December 2009 for further implementation of the Real ID act.