Jun 10 2012

Attorney General admits there’s a right to travel — but claims ignorance of violations

As picked up on by Josh Gerstein of Politico.com, Attorney General Eric Holder was questioned this week during an appearance before Congress (see this video beginning at 1:23:47) about whether people who want to enter Federal office buildings or courthouses, petition the government for redress of their grievances, or travel to Washington by plane to do so are, or can lawfully be, required to show government-issued photo ID credentials.

Holder did admit that travel is a Constitutional right: “Yup. The Supreme Court has said that the right to travel has a Constitutional dimension.”

But he claimed not to be aware that government-issued ID credentials are required of visitors to the Justice Department building that houses his own office, or — as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld in 2007 in Foti v. McHugh — from those who seek to enter Federal courthouses (even people who are themselves parties to cases and representing themselves pro se).

Asked about what, if anything, his department has done to investigate discriminatory application of such ID requirements for would-be petitioners for redress of grievances, Holder repeatedly changed the subject to ID requirements for voters, as if the ability to change the government through voting made it unnecessary to afford any means of redress of grievances between elections.

We’re still waiting for any response to our complaints of violations of the right to travel by Federal agencies — complaints that it should be Holder’s responsibility to investigate.

One of the most problematic of Federal ID requirements is the requirement to show ID to get into the Federal buildings that house most State Department passport offices. Because State Department regulations (22 C.F.R. § 51.28) expressly entitle passport applicants to establish their identity through an identifying witness, without any prerequisite ID documents or credentials, getting a passport is often easier for citizens without documents than getting a drivers license or state ID, and can serve as the first step in “bootstrapping” state ID or other documents.

Unfortunately, many Post Offices and other passport acceptance offices are unfamiliar with the “identifying witness” option, which isn’t mentioned in most State Department passport application references. The only places you can count on the witness affidavit form being available and accepted are State Department passport offices, almost all of which are located in buildings that can no longer be entered without first showing government -issued ID credentials.

Catch 22.

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