The US Congress often passes legislation dealing with multiple topics. One of the most well-known examples of the Congress passing legislation within legislation is REAL ID. Jim Babka of the DownsizeDC Foundation writes, “The REAL ID Act did something Americans have always rejected. It created a national identification system. This idea had so little support it couldn’t even be brought to a vote in the Senate. But Congressional leaders got it passed anyway. They attached it to a bill Senators were afraid to oppose — the “Emergency, Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief.” (May, 2005)
Senators were scared to defeat a bill that funded the troops, so the REAL ID Act became the law of the land.”
REAL ID has not yet been fully implemented, and a handful of state governments have opted not to comply with the provisions of REAL ID. If REAL ID is ever implemented by the federal government, people with a drivers license from Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, or New York will need a passport in order to avoid intense scrutiny from the TSA if they wish to fly, and may be denied access to federal buildings. CNN reports that approximately 9.5 million drivers licenses have been issued in those states.
On the surface this doesn’t seem like a big deal – 3% of Americans will need a passport to enter a federal building or get on a flight – until you realize that over 60% of Americans don’t have a valid passport, and the Congress has just granted the IRS the authority to revoke the passport of anyone with a delinquent tax debt in excess of $50,000. Like REAL ID, the section of law titled “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies” was passed as a provision of an unrelated bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, (aka “FAST Act”).
Forbes reports, “this $50,000 figure includes penalties and interest. And as everyone knows, interest and penalties can add up fast.”
As with all other numerical figures in statute, the $50,000 number could always be lowered to include any amount of alleged delinquent tax debt. As if this weren’t bad enough, the fees for expatriating from the United States were recently increased by 422% from $450 to $2,350. And according to the US State Department to renounce United States citizenship someone must appear before a US consular or diplomatic officer in a foreign country. With very few exceptions, an American citizen wishing to emigrate from the United States will need a valid passport. These new rules mean that for some people, those from the non-REAL ID states are especially susceptible, the fundamental right to travel can now be limited or restricted because one government agency claims they owe money.
Does restricting the right to travel, whilst simultaneously telling people “love it, or leave it” really sound like something that should happen in the so-called “Land of the Free”?