Have you been to your local Department of Motor Transportation recently? If you visited to obtain a driver’s license or to renew one you may have been offered an option to get a federally-backed license. You may have been told that this form of identification could be used to board commercial planes and enter federal buildings. If you chose this option, your new license had to be specially printed and would be delivered to your home about two weeks after the request and you would be issued a temporary card in the meantime. If you left this experience curious, this is what it’s all about: It is the product of the Real ID Act of 2005. The intention of the act was to create a federal identity document which every American would need for activities like flying commercially, entering government buildings, or opening a bank account. Ever since its enactment, the states have fought against it.
The act was never passed through a true democratic process. It was slipped through congress at the time in a “must-pass” Iraqi War/Tsunami relief supplement bill. The Real ID Act hence lacks legitimacy that comes from being studied, debated, considered, and directly voted upon by America’s elected representatives. While Congress passed it, state legislatures struggle with it. They have to appropriate the money for this act, and in some cases change the state laws. Making the necessary technological changes to comply with this act would be burdensome, and it is a threat to privacy and immigration groups. Because of its lack in proper analysis, the Real ID Act is considerably controversial for these reasons.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued several mandates and extensions for compliance with this issue, but they claim that January 15th, 2013 will be the final one given. Then, the DHS will assess each state based “on the totality of what [they] have done”. They want to declare that each state is “materially compliant based on their independent actions to improve security…”.
At the present time, getting the federally-backed license is optional, but it’s going to be the new norm if you acquire a license or renew it after the deadline. A real nightmare could also ensue with an increase in identity theft and pointless and time-wasting red tape and expenses. Get ready, because in more ways than one, America is about to pay for an error on the part of our lawmakers.