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Real ID Act Postponed by Department of Homeland Security

Forty-six of 56 states and territories not ready for Dec. 31 deadline.

by / December 18, 2009

With most states unable to meet the Dec. 31 deadline that would require them to issue enhanced drivers' licenses through the ReaL ID Act, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pushed back the deadline in an announcement Friday, Dec. 18, while still remaining committed to the legislation.

Forty-six of the 56 states and territories told the DHS they can't meet the deadline, announced Deputy Press Secretary Matt Chandler.

"In order to ensure that the millions of Americans traveling this holiday season are not disrupted, DHS is extending the Dec. 31 Real ID material compliance deadline. The May 10, 2011, deadline for full compliance remains in effect, and the department will continue to work closely with states to meet this deadline," Chandler said in a statement.

The National Governors Association (NGA) sent a letter Wednesday, Dec. 16 to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano requesting an extension of the Real ID Act so that Americans could use their drivers' licenses to board aircraft during the holiday season. "Governors are committed to continuing work with [DHS] and Congress to find a solution to the problems of Real ID," the letter said.

Real ID History

House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced H.R. 418 on Jan. 26, 2005 as a rider to H.R. 1268, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief of 2005. As a rider to what was a troop funding and Asian tsunami relief bill, H.R. 418, a.k.a. the Real ID Act, was passed without debate.

Proponents of Real ID said the legislation was drafted in response to findings from the 9/11 Commission that showed all but one 9/11 hijacker has obtained state drivers' licenses. Critics then and now claim it is an attempt by the federal government to mandate a national identification card and a national identification database. They also charge the act is an unfunded mandate that would place an unfair burden on states.

As originally written, to obtain a valid driver's license under Real ID, a citizen would have been required to present extensive documentation. Each state was required to obtain and verify a photo identity document -- or a nonphoto identity document that contains both the applicant's full legal name and date of birth. The state also had to verify a person's name, primary address, date of birth and Social Security number -- or proof of Social Security ineligibility. Everyone in America would have needed to go to their department of motor vehicles before May 11, 2008 to present these documents.

The act also originally required Real ID cards to feature "common machine readable technology" and incorporate undefined security features. Furthermore, without a Real ID card, citizens would not -- in the future -- be able to enter federal buildings, which include airports.

The Real ID Act united in opposition groups that normally oppose each one another, including the NGA, the National Rifle Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and numerous religious and privacy organizations.

Three years would then pass before the DHS released the final regulations of Real ID. During the interim numerous states passed legislation opposing and in some cases forbidding participation in Real ID. In response, with the announcement of the final regulations, the DHS pushed the Real ID deadline back from its original May 11, 2008 deadline to 2014. The DHS said states would not be required to begin rolling out Real ID until after Dec. 31 2009. After which, states would have five years to deploy the necessary technology and infrastructure.

States continued to protest both the ID card and the nationwide database. The DHS responded saying that many states already had ID cards that met the regulatory requirements and that the existing Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS) could be modified to support the database requirement.

The DHS' "concessions" did little to quell the revolt among states. Presently more than two-thirds of states have either passed legislation forbidding or postponing participation in Real ID.

With almost no states anywhere near prepared to meet the rollout date of Dec. 31, 2009, the DHS took a different approach. In June 2009, the Pass ID bill was introduced in the Senate. Many called it "Real ID-lite." S.1261, the Providing Additional Security in States' Identification Act of 2009, a.k.a. Pass ID. Though touted as a replacement bill for Real ID and one that has removed the most objectionable components, Pass ID has not yet become law.


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