Governor John E. Baldacci learned today from the Department of Homeland Security that Maine has been granted an extension to the May 11, 2008, implementation deadline for the REAL ID Act of 2005.
Earlier today, Governor Baldacci responded to a March 31 letter from DHS that asked Maine to take certain steps to improve the security of its driver's license before an extension would be granted. In his letter to DHS, Governor Baldacci agreed to all the requirements.
"I have an obligation to make sure that State government acts in the best interest of all the people of Maine," Governor Baldacci said. "I believe the requests made by the Department of Homeland Security are reasonable, and I will use the resources at my disposal to make sure they are implemented. I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature and Secretary of State on these important issues."
Without the extension, after May 11, 2008, Maine driver's licenses would not have been acceptable for federal purposes, including travel on commercial airlines and entry into federal buildings.
"One of our goals in working with the federal government on this issue is to ensure that our people aren't penalized because they're from Maine," Governor Baldacci said. "That's unacceptable to me."
"Our other goal is to enhance the security of our driver's licenses," Governor Baldacci said. "It's time that Maine adds new safeguards to our credentials."
The Governor was notified that Maine had been granted the extension during an early afternoon telephone call with Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Stewart Baker.
"I want to thank Secretary Chertoff and Assistant Secretary Baker for working directly with me on behalf of Maine," Governor Baldacci said. "We've had a constructive dialogue, and I look forward to working with them as we implement these improvements."
The Governor will submit legislation today that will limit state credentials to U.S. citizens or to others who can establish their legal presence in the country. In addition, the legislation will make the following changes to the process of issuing state credentials:
Maine will enter into an agreement with USCIS and utilize the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to verify DHS documents presented by non-citizens. Maine will set the term for any license that it issues to lawfully present non-citizens so that the license's term expires when the alien's legal status ends. Maine will commit to looking into the most cost-effective way to ensure that customers do not have more than one driver's license or identification card already issued by the state, such as facial recognition or similar technology.
Maine will also change its driver's license procedures so that photographs are taken at the beginning of the process so that images are captured even if applications are not completed in their entirety.
Maine's agreement to the measures requested by the DHS enabled the state to obtain the needed extension. REAL ID extensions are valid until Dec. 31, 2009, when states must upgrade the security of their systems, to include a check for lawful status of all applicants, for their licenses and ID cards to be acceptable for official purposes.
The text of Governor Baldacci's April 2 letter follows:
April 2, 2008
The Honorable Michael Chertoff Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Washington, D.C. 20538
Dear Secretary Chertoff:
In response to your March 31, 2008, letter, I can assure you that the State of Maine can make the commitments you identified.
Specifically, based on our conversation, Maine is prepared to commit to the following security measures.
First, I will seek legislation to halt Maine's current practice of issuing licenses to those not present lawfully in the United States.
Second, today I will submit legislation, which includes a funding source and appropriations, that
will adopt three changes in Maine's licensing processes:
Maine will enter into an agreement with USCIS and utilize the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to verify DHS documents presented by non-citizens. Maine will set the term for any license that it issues to lawfully present non-citizens so that the term expires when the alien's legal status ends. Maine will commit to looking into the most cost-effective way to ensure that customers do not have more than one driver's license or identification card already issued by the state, such as facial recognition or similar technology.
Finally, Maine will begin capturing and maintaining photographs of each individual applying for a license or state identification card, even if no license is issued.
I expect the policy and programming changes to be enacted by Dec. 15, 2008. The change in photograph procedures will be accomplished within 60 days. I understand that, if these timelines are not met, the Department's extension of the May 11, 2008, deadline will come to an end.
I trust that these assurances are sufficient, and I appreciate the efforts that you and your staff have made to work with Maine in this matter.
John E. Baldacci Governor