As people prepare to travel this holiday season, the joy of heading home overshadows the reality that will come into effect after Christmas break. Starting Jan. 22, 2018, citizens from states that do not administer Real ID licenses will be required to show an alternative form of identification such as a passport, military identification or permanent-resident card when going through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints. Those wishing to enter a federal facility or a nuclear power plant will also need a form of Real ID to proceed.
Travelers from Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington, will have to show an alternative form of identification as of January to enter federal facilities, including airports. For students from these states at the University of Redlands, travel plans will not have to change to leave for break, but must be accommodated when traveling in the new year. However, some states have applied for an extension through June 6, 2018. The states that will see a change in June include Alaska, California, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia. Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas have also have an extension and will not require use of a Real ID until Oct. 10, 2018.
The question then becomes: what constitutes a Real ID? The Real ID Act establishes minimum security requirements on state issued identifications. The requirements state that individuals who are administering licences must have a background check, identification must include anti-counterfeit technology and an individual’s identity must be confirmed before identification is administered. The information necessary on the card itself includes: full legal name, date of birth, gender, driver’s license number, address or principal residence, signature and security features that prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication along with machine readable technology to electronically confirm compliance.
This change comes in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an effort to increase airport security. The act was passed in 2005 to combat terrorism. The change has been in the planning process since the passing of the act, yet many travelers remain unaware. Thus, airports recently started posting official signs around security checkpoints to warn individuals of the upcoming change. By the year 2020, all states will be required to have Real identification, but as of now, most states have an adequate amount of information for current TSA standards.
“The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards,” stated the Department of Homeland Security.
The act sets minimum security standards for federal facilities and requires more personal information to be provided for licensure. It also states that certain forms of identification may no longer be accepted by federal officials if they are not compliant with the Real ID standards. Many states have already agreed to comply to the standards, but others have been granted extensions to update identification protocol if they show intent to move towards a system that complies with the federal regulations being enacted.
Under this act more information on the individual is required and could potentially lead to a national identity card system. A national identity card would be a uniform card issued by the federal government rather than at the state level. Many incorrectly assume driver’s licenses to be a form of national identification, but the guidelines are set by each state government and vary regionally.
Many politicians from diverse backgrounds oppose this direction, as it would take away power from the state. The concern is that a national identity card creates a false sense of security and releases more personal information at the national level. The implementation of the national identity card system could also cost taxpayers approximately $4 billion dollars if it passes. This cost makes it difficult to support the system for those who question it’s validity in the first place.
Claims have been made that individuals could still easily obtain fraudulent documents, not by obtaining a fake identification card, but by forging birth certificates and the materials necessary to obtain the national identification card. This counteracts the claim that national identification prevents terrorism. However, the Real ID act passed in 2005 also contains a section regarding the use of fraudulent Real identification in airports as a punishable offense.
In terms of privacy, a database of all American citizens would have to be created to ensure the validity of the identification. This database would include all information provided to obtain the identification, leading to concerns of infiltration. If an individual were able to hack into the database system, copious amounts of vital information about all American citizens would be readily accessible. Similar to the Social Security system, initially created for retirement purposes, a national identity database could potentially be given over to the police force and relevant authorities, spreading the information meant to protect the individual.
Failure to carry the card or obtain it in a timely fashion could lead to issues with the law. Minorities fear discrimination disguised as routine “identity” checks, which would be inevitable, similar to the full-body security checks present in airport security now. To prove one’s identity the database aforementioned would be used and in turn would be readily accessible to all TSA officials.
However, proponents for a national identity card argue that it will allow for more security and uniformity when boarding airplanes. The risk of terrorism within the country and from other countries remains evident. Thus, the idea of a national identification system would be a step in the direction of preventing terrorism in the sky. Chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp., Larry Ellison, stated that he would create a software system for national identification creation free of charge in hopes of catalyzing this system’s passing. Those who support the national identity system wish to put goals into place soon, working towards a cohesive identification system.
The illusive “database” which could be created if the national identification system is put into place, is not a present concern with the Real ID system. Each state will continue to have their own private database of citizens with limited information needed to obtain licensure. Access to such information remains at the discretion of state officials and is not accessible by all national entities.
Participation in the Real ID system is not mandatory and failure to comply has been accepted for the states who are unwilling to implement the system. Currently states that have refused to comply include Montana and Kentucky among others. Consequently, individuals from those states will have to use an alternative form of identification to travel by air domestically.
Currently, non-US citizens are able to obtain state licensure, but under the Real ID act they will have to provide the information necessary for federally approved identification. Although this poses as a threat to non-citizens, nothing will change in terms of obtaining the current standard licensure for US citizens.
States with enhanced licenses available for border crossing will be able to use the enhanced identification for domestic travel. An enhanced license allows for easier international travel by land and sea, doubling as a ground-passport and driver’s license. The states that issue enhanced licenses include Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington. The states that issue enhanced licenses meet the Real ID standards so they will not need to be updated.
A form of Real ID will also not be required to vote, apply for federal benefits, be licensed to drive, access federal health clinics or participate in law enforcement proceedings. Federal facilities that previously did not require identification for entry will not implement the Real ID system or begin requiring identification. The only major change will be in air travel.
As the enforcement deadline approaches, state licensing facilities and air travel authorities must prepare for the change in identification standards. Travelers should anticipate the impending national expansion of the identification program and prepare to bring alternate forms of identification when traveling by air domestically.
photo courtesy of Redlands Bulldog photographer and reporter Amanda Schmalzried