Gold Stars Appear, as States Have Less Than One Year to Meet Federal REAL ID Standards for Secure Driver's Licenses and IDs
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2012 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Airport security screeners are beginning to see stars. That is, they are beginning to see driver's licenses with gold stars, issued by states which have been certified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as compliant with federal REAL ID standards. Those states include Indiana, South Dakota, Delaware, Connecticut, Utah, Alabama, Ohio, Florida and West Virginia.
In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule establishing federal security standards for the issuance of driver's licenses and IDs, implementing a federal law passed in 2005. Beginning in 2009 and continuing to the present, a succession of states have changed their driver's license procedures to comply with these regulations. The Coalition for a Secure Driver's License has carefully tracked those upgrades, and is pleased to report that more than half of the states are close to joining the club that is authorized to place a gold star on its driver's licenses and IDs.
The dozen states that have done little or nothing to comply with the federal REAL ID requirements had best start looking at the calendar. These states have less than a year remaining to notify the Department of Homeland Security that they will begin reforming their driver's license rules, or their residents will need to start getting passports in order to board commercial airlines.
The federal deadline for states to notify DHS that they have "substantially compliant" with the rules is January 15, 2013. The REAL ID Act of 2005 prohibits federal agencies from accepting non-compliant driver's licenses "for identification purposes" after the deadline.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who in 2011 extended the deadline by one year, testified before the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives that she would not further extend the deadline. She also testified that twenty-two states were already compliant.
Brian Zimmer, President of the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, noted, "Most Americans won't be affected, either because their state's driver's license requirements now meet the standards, or because their respective governors and state officials have formally assured DHS they are on the road to compliance."
The Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to provide extensions to individual states, as long as the state has provided a self-certification that it intends to comply. Most states have sent letters to DHS stating that they will comply. However, a handful of states have indicated that they will not comply because their legislatures have enacted laws that prohibit them from complying with the REAL ID Act.
This last group includes, at a minimum, Montana, Washington State, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arizona, Louisiana and Alaska. New Mexico has no prohibitions against compliance, but has been unable to revise state laws to meet the lawful presence requirements set by the federal driver's license rules. Oregon's legislature considered law changes needed for federal compliance in 2011, as did Illinois, but the legislation failed in both states.
Mr. Zimmer noted that even states that have declared their intent to comply have further work ahead. He said, "Some of the states which are complying with the federal requirements continue to issue non-compliant driver's licenses and IDs to people who can't or won't provide the necessary paperwork to prove their identities definitively. Others, like Virginia and Arizona, have passed laws that establish requirements for proof of lawful presence for new applicants, but "grandfathered" those who obtained driver's licenses in prior years. Those provisions allow many to renew indefinitely without presenting proofs of identity. Those states are supposed to mark such non-compliant IDs with clear indicators that they do not meet requirements for federal identification purposes. So far, only six states mark non-compliant IDs as such, including Indiana, Connecticut, Delaware, Utah, West Virginia and Maryland. This is an important matter, because people who obtain non-compliant driver's licenses need to know that they will have to provide other acceptable IDs, such as passports, to get through security screening at the airports."
He also stated, "I hope that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) begins preparing to enforce the deadline next January by posting notices in the airports as to which driver's licenses will no longer be considered as proof of identity for boarding planes. This would help to avoid queues of disappointed travelers in 2013 and it will also serve as a wakeup call to residents of states that won't or can't meet the deadline so they would have time to get passports prior to domestic airline travel. The REAL ID Act is an important barrier to terrorists, like those who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks. Most state governments are on the way to comply with the federal standards. It's time for the laggard states to get on board with REAL ID, so their residents can board planes and enter federal buildings after the deadline."
Background: The REAL ID Act and the 2008 Final Rule Implementing Title II of that law.
Following the 9/11 Commission Report in 2004, the Congress addressed most of the Commission's recommendations with two laws: The Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 and the REAL ID Act of 2005. Among those reforms deemed most important by the professional law enforcement community are identity proofing requirements to make it easier for law enforcement and transportation security screeners to verify identity documents. The laws established requirements for the federal government and, indirectly, for the states regarding how identity documents would be issued and what kind of identity proofs were appropriately required before identity credentials should be issued.
These requirements responded directly to the 9/11 Commission's statement that, "[t]he federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification such as driver's licenses."
The REAL ID Act required the Department of Homeland Security, together with the states, to set minimum standards for state issued driver's licenses and identification cards use for "official purposes," such as boarding a commercial airplane. The regulations were issued in final form by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on May 11, 2008, after then DHS Secretary Chertoff extended the deadline to coincide with the three year lapse before the law was enacted.
The REAL ID Act has five titles, of which Title Two addresses driver's license rules. In brief, Title Two of the REAL ID Act directed the Department of Homeland Security to establish minimum security standards for state motor vehicle agencies. The Act was quite specific and proscriptive, because Congressional analysis had identified the areas in which the states' rules were absent or weak with regard to preventing imposters, including foreign terrorists, from exploiting those vulnerabilities. The law is binding on the federal government and states that documents which do not meet the standards cannot be accepted by the federal agencies after certain deadlines. The deadline for state compliance was extended by current DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to January 15, 2013.
In March 2011, the former 9/11 Commission chairs stated the case for compliance. Governor Kean and Congressman Hamilton testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee with the same recommendation, noting that the REAL ID Act "established the standards [recommended by the 9/11 Commission] by statute." Governor Kean and Congressman Hamilton released a report, "Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations". To view the report, click here. http://bit.ly/pYlKUc
About the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License The Coalition for a Secure Driver's License (CSDL) is a 501 (c)(3) non-partisan, not for profit, crime prevention, educational public charity, supported by donor contributions from across the United States. Our slogan, "Working to protect the identity of every American", embodies our commitment to higher standards for both government and private entities that issue identity credentials, especially state agencies that issue driver's licenses and ID cards. CSDL undertakes research addressing best practices for DMVs, compliance with federal laws, identity fraud prevention and related identity management topics. CSDL continuously collects data from each state and territory motor vehicle agency on their current identity verification and anti-counterfeit measures. CSDL's newsletter has over 9,000 subscribers in 50 states.
CSDL's website is www.secure-license.org. Mailing address: 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 880, Washington, DC 20004
SOURCE Coalition for a Secure Driver's License