Apr 11 2011

California bill would condition the right to travel on … draft registration?

A bizarre bill currently pending in the California Senate, S.B. 251, introduced Feb. 10, 2011, by Senator Lou Correa of Orange County, would require all applicants for California drivers’ licenses to consent to having the information they provide to the state Department of Motor Vehicles forwarded to the U.S. Selective Service System and used to register them for a possible military draft.

Whatever one may think of Selective Service, the draft, draft registration, or the wars for which they might be used, this bill reflects a disturbing failure by its sponsors to recognize that travel, within and between states as well as internationally, is a right — subject only to the most limited and essential administrative restrictions — and not a privilege that can at the government’s whim, to serve unrelated purposes, be granted, denied, encumbered, or conditioned on the waiver of other rights.

In our letter to the California Senate’ Standing Committee on Transportation and Housing, which will hold a hearing on S.B. 251 tomorrow where we plan to testify, we outlined our objections as follows:

SB 251 would perpetuate and expand the inappropriate practice of tying unrelated enforcement activities to the issuance of driver credentials.

This practice starts by redefining a Constitutionally-protected activity, freedom of movement, as a “privilege”…. Once this former “right” is claimed to be a “privilege”, then a Pandora’s Box of restrictions can in theory be attached to it….

But the attraction of using linkages to driver licensing as means to enforce other laws stems precisely from the importance of a driver’s license – and the right to free movement for which it has been made a prerequisite. In today’s California, “consent” given under threat of denial of a license to exercise the “privilege” of driving is no real consent at all. The exercise of one right cannot lawfully be conditioned on the waiver of another right….

Driver’s licenses are the thin end of the wedge of restrictions on the right to travel, which is protected both internationally (in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights), nationally (in the Constitution’s Assembly Clause), and in our state Constitution’s Article I, Section 3 (a).

Travel, both within the state of California and to and from other states and countries, is a fundamental right guaranteed as part of the “right of the people … peacably to assemble” under the First Amendment, as well as by Article 12 (freedom of movement) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty to which the U.S. is a party and which is thus part of the supreme law of the land.

Government-issued photo ID credentials are required to exercise these rights, including not just driving but also travel within California by Amtrak. Government-issued ID credentials are also required for entrance to many government buildings, including some courthouses and buildings housing Congressional offices. This makes these ID credentials, issued by the DMV, a prerequisite to the exercise of the right to petition for redress of grievance, as also guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Travel is a right, not a privilege. Conditions placed on the exercise of this right, as would be done by this bill, must be evaluated according to the strict standards applicable to measures which burden or place conditions on the exercise of these rights.

Any conditioning of driver’s licenses on consent to the use of DMV data for other purposes – whether for purposes of Selective Service registration, compilation and maintenance of “REAL-ID” databases, or otherwise – would transform the right to travel into a privilege that can be granted or withheld by the state at whim. Once such conditions on the exercise of rights begin to be imposed, where will they end?

S.B. 251 is also being opposed by, among other organizations, the ACLU of California (letter explaining basis for ACLU opposition), the Automobile Club of Southern California (unless amended), the California State Automobile Association (unless amended), the Friends Committee on Legislation of California, the Peace & Freedom Party of California. The Senate Transportation Committee hearing on S.B. 251 is scheduled for April 12, 2011, 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 (changed from room 4203 originally scheduled) of the State Capitol in Sacramento. We’ll be there to testify, and we encourage those of you in California to let your state Senators (especially the members of the Transportation Committee) know what you think of putting conditions like these, for completely unrelated purposes, on your right to move around the state and the country.

6 thoughts on “California bill would condition the right to travel on … draft registration?

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  2. The bill was reported out of the Transportation Committee on April 12th “as amended”, although the exact language of the amendments has yet to be written. Once the amendments are written, the bill will go to the Rules committee and then to the Appropriations committee for another hearing.

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