The Washington Times reports that Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, author of the REAL ID Act, opposes legislation to close a loophole in that law that currently permits states to adopt the Spitzer plan of separate licenses for illegal aliens. (The law’s minimum standards for driver’s licenses are required only for documents to be accepted for federal-mandated purposes, like boarding an airplane). He says:
I do not believe it is constitutional for the federal government to tell the states who they can issue driver’s licenses to and who they can’t issue driver’s licenses to.
Of course, any effort to change the current arrangement would not so much ban giving licenses to illegals as deny highway funding to those states that do so. The feds do this all the time, usually for matters that really are no business of the federal government. For instance, in 1984 Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking-Age Act, tying highway funds to the state drinking age. Personally, I think that was a stupid idea, but Jim Sensenbrenner didn’t object to it — a journal article on the bill (not online) reports that the House, where Sensenbrenner was in his third term, adopted the measure by voice vote as an amendment to a transportation bill. Why was it OK then to tell states they were not to let 18-year-olds have a beer but it’s “unconstitutional” now to prevent states from giving a de facto amnesty to illegal aliens?