If you live in Arizona, Louisiana, New York, or one of more than a dozen other states, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has bad news for you. Come January 19, your driver’s license will no longer allow you access to certain federal facilities. Unless DHS changes its mind. Again.
In 2005, Congress passed a bill called the Real ID Act, based upon recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. Whether or not you’ve heard of the law depends largely upon how in tune you are with conspiracy theories. Where you live matters, too, because nearly a decade after the law’s passage, only 19 states actually comply with its standards.
Real ID’s stated intent is to ensure that all jurisdictions issuing driver’s licenses and other identification meet federal standards, “which should inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.” Basically, the government is upping the ante on what it will accept as valid forms of ID at federal facilities, nuclear power plants, and—here’s the biggie—federally regulated airline flights (i.e., most of them).
Opponents fear that Real ID will lead to a national identity card like those issued by “totalitarian” governments and that its requirement that states share data from their department of motor vehicle databases is an invasion of privacy. Others object because Congress didn’t offer financial backing to help states implement Real ID. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contends that the program wastes state resources while doing little to combat terrorism, calling it a “bureaucratic nightmare.”
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