It is hard to believe that Donald Trump has only been acting as president for about two weeks, and it is already getting tedious to think about his attacks on civil liberties and his actions making travel unnecessarily difficult. Of course, Trump is not the first president to infringe on our rights in those areas. Today, I want to look back at the REAL ID Act, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2005, and which will soon start having a large impact on many Americans. You may read the text of the Act here.
First, let me engage in a little personal digression. As I write this, my wife and daughter and grandchildren are visiting Southern California for a few days. When we woke up this morning, there was freezing fog and freezing rain and multiple accidents on the highways. It was a harrowing drive to the airport, and the plane was delayed in taking off, but they made it safely to their destination.
For some reason, our family seems to pick days like this to have to go to the airport. Back in September of 2013, our daughter, Suzanne, and son-in-law, Jeff were flying out of town, and the time for scheduled departure coincided with the worst rainstorms and flooding Denver has experienced in more than 100 years. There were trees washed away, roads flooded and closed and multiple travel advisories. Nevertheless, I drove them to the airport. It took longer than usual, but we made it. That is not the happy ending, though. When we arrived at the terminal, Jeff realized that he had forgotten to bring his driver’s license and had no identification. Because of the road and weather conditions, it would take at least an hour’s driving each way to go back to get the license, and he would miss the plane, anyway. Luckily, our son, Michael, was in town that day, so I called him and had him go get the license and bring it to the airport. It all occurred timely, and that is the happy ending.
At least we knew that his driver’s license would be accepted for identification. The situation would have been more complex if not for that given. However, in the not-too-distant future, many of you are going to learn that your driver’s license will no longer be accepted. We can thank the REAL ID Act of 2005 for that result.
That law essentially makes state-issued drivers’ licenses the equivalent to a national ID Card. Certain documents must be provided and other requirements met before the license may be issued. The license, itself is required to have certain information and be in a machine-readable format , which will facilitate the setting up of a nationwide database. The information in that database is to be shared with our friends the Canadians and with Mr. Trump’s “bad hombre” boogeymen in Mexico.
Half of the states are not yet in compliance with the law (it is “voluntary,” after all), though the effective date has been postponed several times, and a number of the states have been granted extensions.
Presently, January of 2018 is the date that is important for identification at airports. It seems that after that date, drivers’ licenses from Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington will no longer be accepted because those states have not complied nor have they asked for an extension.
An extension until June 6, 2017, has been granted to Alaska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia. If they have not become compliant by then, drivers’ licenses from those states will no longer be accepted for entry to federal buildings and facilities.
An extension until October 10, 2017, has been granted to California, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Texas. Similarly, if they have not become compliant by that date the drivers’ licenses from those states will not be accepted as identification at federal buildings and facilities.
As the effective dates get closer, we may look at the civil liberties issues that should be addressed. For now, consider this a heads-up so that you in the affected states can start working on getting your alternative identification documents together. Alternative documents include U.S. passport or passport card; DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST); U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians); U.S. passport or passport card; DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST); U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians); permanent resident card; border crossing card; DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license; airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan); federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID; HSPD-12 PIV card; foreign government-issued passport; Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card; transportation worker identification credential; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766); and U.S. Merchant Mariner Credentials.