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DHS postpones federal Real ID Act to give U.S. states a chance to tighten identification rules

Jan 02, 2013 1:15 am

Skift Take

The Real ID Act is geared toward tightening up airline security, but implementation by states has been very sluggish.

— Dennis Schaal

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Forget about New Mexico — and 36 other states’ — driver’s licenses no longer being accepted as identification at airports early in 2013.

After setting off a run on passport offices around the state, the deadline for complying with the federal Real ID Act has been postponed for the fourth time.

[On December 20, the DHS extended the Act’s deadline after finding that only 13 states had complied with the law. Those states are:¬†Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.]

But if you should find yourself trying to board a commercial airliner with neither a driver’s license nor a passport, here are some other types of identification accepted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

  • Native American tribal photo ID
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and Department of Defense civilians)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • DHS “Trusted Traveler” cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Other photo identity cards issued by state motor vehicles departments
  • An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a Transportation Security Administration-approved security plan)
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Even if you have no identification at all, there are ways to get on a plane. People have been known to pass TSA muster with nothing more than an iPod that holds their emails, photographs and other data.

“We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home,” says a DHS website. “If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases. Passengers who are cleared through this process may be subject to additional screening.”

New Mexico is one of several states that does not require proof of immigration status from foreigners seeking driver’s licenses — a situation that has become a political dividing line.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has tried to amend state law so that illegal aliens would not be able to obtain state driver’s licenses. Her efforts have been thwarted in the Legislature by Democrats.

The Real ID Act, enacted as an anti-terrorism measure in 2006, would force states to make driver’s licenses contingent on proving legal immigration status and to meet technology requirements. The deadline for states to comply initially was set for 2009, but it was extended three times to Jan. 15, 2013, although the effect on individuals boarding airplanes wasn’t to occur until later.

But on Dec. 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced that for the foreseeable future, it would continue to accept driver’s licenses from states that had not complied with the federal statute. The announcement was hailed by New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, Democrats who had sought the extension.

[The DHS revealed that only 13 states had complied with the law.]

The government said it will publish a new schedule for meeting the new driver’s license standards next fall and begin implementation “at a suitable date thereafter.”

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