By Benjamin Din, Ruben Fischer-Baum and Kevin Uhrmacher | The Washington Post
In recent months, struggling states have been in a mad rush to comply with the requirements of a 2005 federal law in the hopes of averting a domestic air travel nightmare for their residents.
The Real ID Act calls on states to comply with federal standards for issuing identification documents, such as driver’s licenses and ID cards. Attempt by Congress to fight terrorism after September 11, the law is being implemented in stages. The final phase of the implementation, which targets air travel, is expected to begin on January 22.
It took almost 15 years for the federal government to fully implement the law, a process that has been marred by controversy and confusion almost every time.
Critics attacked the legislation as a federal attempt to create a national database of citizens. Although compliant states must meet certain requirements, there is no such thing as a true uniform identity card: states still issue their own documents, but they must adhere to more stringent security standards regarding card issuance, card design and processing of requests.
The government has used various designations to track a state’s implementation progress, but the top three statuses are Compliant, Non-Compliant, and Non-Compliant with an extension.
If a state is found to be non-compliant, its residents will no longer be able to use these documents for federal identification purposes. (There are no such states at this time.) Currently, they would be prohibited from using their state credentials to enter military bases, most federal facilities, and nuclear power plants.
On January 22, this list would include airport security checkpoints. Last December, the Transportation Security Administration began posting signs at airport security checkpoints warning travelers of the upcoming deadline.
Until then, state-issued driver’s licenses and identity cards can still be used for domestic air travel, regardless of a state’s compliance status. After that, those from non-compliant states will not be allowed. Those in states with extensions will not be affected, as long as the extensions are maintained.
The deadline is October 1, 2020, when all driver’s licenses and ID cards must comply to pass airport security. (Most compliant states provide the option to refuse to obtain compliant identification.)
Currently, 26 states and the District of Columbia meet federal standards.
All remaining states have been granted an extension until October 10, indicating that one state is making good progress with implementation. Extensions are renewable for up to one year, at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Minnesota, Missouri and Oregon were granted extensions in July, after their state legislatures rushed to pass measures earlier this year to bring them into compliance.
A state’s decision to comply with the law will not result in compliance overnight. It can take years for a state to begin issuing compliant documents, often due to inadequate technology and bureaucratic hurdles. Compliant ID usually has a gold or black star in the top corner, but the line between compliant states and those with an extension can sometimes be blurry. . There are two compliant states that issue unstarred identification: Hawaii and Utah.
A third state, Tennessee, has been found to be compliant by the Department of Homeland Security since December 2012. However, a state official told The Post that the state is still waiting for the go-ahead from DHS before starting to publish information. compliant documents.
Five states have gold stars on their physical IDs but are not currently compliant because the state’s application process does not meet federal standards. If the state updates its process to meet federal standards before the deadline, residents won’t have to get a new card.
For those who do not want compliant state credentials, there are other forms of identification that institutions will accept. Different standards apply for different installations, so it is best to check the requirements first.
For example, the TSA lists 15 alternatives that can be obtained through an airport security checkpoint, such as an enhanced driver’s license – an option in just five states – or DHS Trusted Traveler Cards from Global Entry programs. , NEXUS and SENTRI.
Implementation of the law has dragged on for more than a decade, with several states opposing it for reasons of confidentiality and overly federal significance. Meanwhile, more than a dozen states have considered or passed legislation to prevent the implementation of Real ID standards.
However, even the most critical states aligned after the timeline for the final phase of implementation targeting air transport was announced in January 2016.
“There is no expected change in the implementation timeline and we are tracking that by 2020, 15 years after this law is passed, DHS will require all states to comply with Real ID as required by law. federal government, âsaid DHS spokesperson Justine Whelan. .
In June, then Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly reaffirmed the Trump administration’s commitment to deploying the final segment of the law.
âThis is an extremely important recommendation from the 9/11 Commission that others have been prepared to ignore, but I will not,â said Kelly, now President Trump’s chief of staff, during a congressional hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee. “I will ensure that it is implemented on time – without an extension – for states that do not take it seriously.”