In September of 2015, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced that it would begin enforcing the controversial Real ID act for air travel beginning 2016. The new regulation would require travelers to present secondary identification for licenses issued in four U.S. states.
Just recently, however, the DHS has increased the number of states that issue licenses they will no longer accept after January 22, 2018.
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
- Washington State
- Puerto Rico
- S. Virgin Islands
If you have a driver’s license from any of these states, you may find yourself prohibited from flying. For more information on the status of other states, you may check the DHS website.
What Is Happening?
Following an endorsement from the 9/11 Commission, the United States Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 in response to the purported ease of acquiring fake IDs and its association with terrorist threats, and calls for the creation of improved and more secure driver’s licenses called Real IDs. Drawing controversy since day one, the Real ID Act has compelled more than a dozen states to pass state legislation banning observance of the law. Privacy advocates and civil rights groups have also voiced strong opposition to the Real ID Act’s requirements for sharing data with the authorities.
But why the negative reaction?
For starters, the law mandates stricter guidelines for issuing IDs, requiring applicants to provide proof of legal immigration status, identification, and Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license. It also requires that licenses contain a machine-readable magnetic strip or chip to allow unobstructed access by authorities to the license owner’s personal information.
Fortunately, the federal government is unable to force compliance among states, which is why the requirement of driver’s licenses by airport security is seen as a move to encourage people in states complying with the Real ID Act to get these new licenses.
Real ID Act’s Effect on Immigration Policies
In line with the Real ID Act, DMV officials will have the power to make sweeping judgments on a person’s legal status in the United States, giving state agencies that issue licenses the ability to enforce immigration law despite having little expertise on the sensitive matter. The law ultimately places several bureaucratic hurdles for immigrant driver’s license applicant, and those that do manage to get the licenses become easier to identify should they commit criminal offenses that qualify them for removal.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that states still have until the next two years to issue Real IDs before the new mandate finally takes effect. Johnson notes that the Real ID Act was designed to ensure the safety of the American public in a post 9/11 world where security is more important the ever.
To learn more about how the Real ID Act affects your—or someone else you know—status as an immigrant, get in touch with Lyttle Law Firm today. Call us at 512-215-5225.