NEW YORK – Shades of Big Brother.
Just as you were wrapping your mind around the idea that under Obamacare and the accompanying changes in the health-care system, your medical records will be floating around in some online repository, available to far too many people, you’re being told you’ll soon have a National Identity Card and a Western Hemisphere-compliant travel document whether you want it or not, if you plan to drive in the United States.
The federal government says it soon will be enforcing its demands that state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards comply with Department of Homeland Security standards.
DHS announced just before Christmas a final schedule for the full enforcement of the REAL ID Act of 2005.
That was set for a phased implementation beginning in January 2014 and full-scale enforcement planned no later than May 2017, at which time the federal government will no longer accept state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards that do not meet the minimum security standards set by DHS.
For many Americans, the full implementation of the REAL ID act is certain to trigger unfortunate memories of World War II and the modus operandi of fascist, totalitarian states, where travelers and ordinary citizens on the street are stopped by authorities and demanded, “Your papers, please!”
In the U.S., the justification for the REAL ID Act of 2005 was the concern for enhanced travel security after the 9/11 Commission documented several of the 9/11 terrorists had valid state-issued driver’s licenses and were able to freely board airplanes even though they were terrorists who had entered the U.S. illegally.
Among the DHS requirements for a state-issued driver’s license to be DHS-compliant will be the presentation by the applicant of a valid birth certificate, verification of the applicant’s Social Security Number or documentation the person is not eligible for Social Security, and proof the applicant is either a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted to the U.S. as a permanent or temporary resident.
Further, driver’s license and IDs issued by the states will have to meet stringent requirements as set by the federal government.
To qualify as DHS-compliant, state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards must have built-in security features to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, and duplication of the documents for a fraudulent purpose.
They also must have features that establish the individual’s identity, including but not limited to full facial digital photographs, plus machine readable coded information in the form of a bar code that captures the key printed information on the card, such as name of the applicant, address, gender, unique driver’s license or card-identification number, state of issuance, date of application, and date of expiration.
Such state-issued enhanced drivers licenses, or EDLs, must be issued in state facilities in which all employees undergo background checks, including federal and state criminal record searches, as well as with technology that permit the state-issued cards to comply fully with travel rules issued under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, or WHTI, such that the EDLs meet valid passport minimums for travel within the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as with Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.
With this announcement, DHS is putting state governments on notice that by May 2017, states not complying with REAL ID requirements will find that their state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards will not be considered valid by the federal government, such that individuals with non-compliant identification may be prohibited from passing through Transportation Security Administration security to travel on airlines on trains within the United States or internationally.
“States have made considerable progress in meeting the need identified by the 9/11 Commission to make driver’s licenses and other identification more secure,” said David Heyman, DHS assistant secretary for policy. “DHS will continue to support their efforts to enhance the security in an achievable way that will make all of our communities safer.”
In the agency’s Dec. 20 announcement, DHS commended the 21 states that already meet the act’s minimum standards for their leadership in improving security for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
DHS also announced extensions for 20 states and territories that have provided information demonstrating that they are on the pathway toward achieving full compliance, including Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Virginia.
DHS made clear 75 percent of all U.S. drivers currently hold licenses from state jurisdictions deemed to meet the REAL ID standards, or from states that have received extensions.
As of Dec. 20, 2013, DHS listed the following states/territories as not yet REAL ID compliant: Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Marianas, Oklahoma, and Washington State.
DHS said TSA will continue to accept driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards from all jurisdictions until at least 2016, meaning that enforcement for boarding aircraft will not begin until then.