In 2005 the Real ID Act came into existence and has been taking shape slowly since then. Its enforcement is promised to go up beginning in January 2016, so knowing what the act entails and requires of citizens is important. Chiefly, for a US citizen to fly domestically, enter military bases or even get into some capitol buildings in the United States, a state-issued ID won’t be enough.
Essentially, this act mandates that identification used to board federal aircrafts and to enter government/grounds must comply with federal security standards that are more stringent than state standards currently in place throughout much of the US. States whose forms of ID do not fall under federally accepted guidelines will force their citizens to seek out other, less easily attainable identifying documents.
This stubbornness to reform state-issued ID formats stems primarily from a desire to retain states’ rights and not bend to federal pressure. One would think that under the circumstances, most voters should prefer readier access to acceptable identification than looser laws that ultimately prevent them from interacting with authorities on a federal scale.
But admittedly, the most desirable option would be to not have these restrictive federal mandates in place at all. Or at the very least, state lawmakers should agree to comply with the new regulations, rather than reject the federal authority in such a manner that their citizens are unfairly burdened.
Besides Oklahoma, approximately 30 additional states and US territories (that’s the majority—simple statistics, right?) exclusively issue non-compliant driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards.
These documents are not considered adequately secure under the federal law as they do not explicitly indicate that the holder of that card has United States citizenship.
In order to obtain one’s initial driving license, however, one is required to show proof of citizenship. Although that proof is not required when renewing the license, it is highly unlikely (read: impossible except under rare circumstances) that one’s citizenship would have changed. Birth certificates and Social Security cards typically remain constant over time.
Therefore citizenship is implied in owning state-issued IDs. One must have been a citizen in order to initially obtain it, even if the ID card does not explicitly mention US citizenship. That’s not good enough for the federal government’s Real ID act though, so what does that mean for citizens of non-compliant states?
It means that we will have to expend the time, energy, effort and (most importantly for many of us) money to obtain “real” IDs. Further, we will have to exert more effort on our parts in each of these areas to maintain updated and valid state identification, which will still be required for state-level activities.
The most popular option will probably be to get a passport, which can cost anywhere from one to several hundred dollars, depending on how quickly one wants it to be processed, or how efficiently the federal government is operating at the time. This is a direct cost to taxpayers who may otherwise not invest in a passport unless pursuing international travel. Nearly half of adult Americans do have passports, but a problem for half of our nation is a problem for the entire nation.
A few alternatives to passports exist as allowable ID, but they are considerably more limited: passport cards are less expensive but only permit travel within the Americas; military ID cards are accepted but only available to military personnel and families. There are enhanced drivers licenses that include the mandated “proof of citizenship,” but 15 states (including Oklahoma) prohibit that information from being on their state licenses. There’s also the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler program, but that is a hassle to join if you’re an infrequent traveler.
Again, the Real ID Act is only complied with in fewer than 20 of our states and territories. It can fairly be said to be a massive, unnecessary upheaval of our security procedures, primarily sparked by unfounded fears of post-9/11 terrorism.
If you’re planning on traveling within or outside of the United States, visiting any military bases, entering government buildings, or even driving cross-country at any point after January 1, 2016, plan on having some form of acceptable government ID on hand. That will probably mean dropping a few hundred dollars on acquiring a passport to prove that your country of birth hasn’t changed since the last time you renewed your driver’s license, but it’s what your country wants from you.
Interested in viewing more information about the Real ID Act or seeing which specific states and territories are non-compliant? Visit: www.dhs.gov/real-id-enforcement-brief.