Real ID is Finally Coming

An article in notes the looming October 1 deadline for implementation of the federally mandated Real ID program for secure driver’s licenses  (DLs). This deadline is the culmination of the law enacted in 2005 that was a response to the discovery that several of the 9/11 terrorists had illegitimate state DLs that they used for boarding the planes they hijacked for their attack.

The article notes the long campaign of the ACLU and others, including illegal alien defenders, in opposition to the law’s implementation. They argue that by establishing uniform standards for a state to verify a DL applicant’s identity, the U.S. is in effect establishing a national identity system. Alien advocates worry that it will discriminate against illegal alien residents and enhance deportation efforts.

The Vox article describes how legal temporary and permanent foreign residents have the documents necessary to obtain the new secure DLs and that Real ID does not discriminate against foreigners per se. Illegal resident aliens, however, will not have the visas or green cards required to verify legal residence. Several states have decided to issue DLs to illegal resident aliens, but under the Real ID requirements, they must do so by means of a different DL that is distinguishable as not Real ID compliant. These alternative DLs will not be accepted for federal purposes such as boarding airline flights and entering federal buildings where required.

The anti-Real ID activists have succeeded in delaying the law’s implementation for much too long. The arguments about discrimination are far-fetched except for restricting access to airline flights. That barrier is required to establish greater security and deny terrorists the opportunity to execute new 9/11 type attacks.

As far as the argument of the Real ID program creating a national ID, the fact is that Real ID only establishes a system of shared DL data among the states. This VOX article coincides with a time that many of us are getting ready our federal tax returns. For the first time the IRS requests the filer’s DL number. We will no doubt be hearing about this from the ACLU.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).

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