by Lorraine Howerton
A deadline for REAL ID compliance has been set, and now DHS, TSA and states must work together to keep travelers moving throughout the country.
It’s 2016. Is your driver’s license a REAL ID yet?
Lately there’s been a significant amount of handwringing over whether certain U.S. residents will soon need a passport or some other form of ID, rather than just their state driver’s license, to board an airplane domestically.
The short answer is: no. Though Congress mandated more than a decade ago that state-issued IDs conform to certain federal standards, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been deliberately lax on setting an enforcement timetable. On Friday, DHS announced that it won’t start rejecting non-compliant IDs until January of 2018. (The department has a pretty good fact sheet on the issue.)
The hope is that states will pull their acts together well in advance of that deadline. But several of them do need to get on the ball here.
Congress first passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, in order to define standards of acceptable ID for “official purposes,” including boarding a domestic flight. As of January 1, 2016, residents of several states, including New York, Louisiana and Minnesota, do not have driver’s licenses or other state identifications that meet federal standards.
DHS has evidently done its best to move states toward compliance without imposing a drop-dead date that would create a chaotic situation for many travelers. Make no mistake, though: if January of 2018 arrives and any states have not corrected for the federal rules, it will have a chilling effect on our economy and way of life.
As we’ve stated before, we’re hopeful and confident that states and the federal government will solve these issues well before sending us over that precipice. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as the enforcers of this new law, should continue to find ways to encourage states to bring their IDs up to snuff while keeping domestic travel moving safely and efficiently. Rolling out major changes like this on a national level is difficult, and measures need to be taken to ensure this needed update is implemented—but turning away legitimate travelers whose home states have not met federal standards en masse is not the answer.
Striking the balance between security and efficiency in travel is difficult, but possible—it is not and should not be a zero-sum policymaking game. Safety is vital to travel, and the travel community agrees that sensibly stepped-up security measures are important. DHS and TSA can and should seek a balanced approach to enforcing REAL ID rules that would not penalize travelers or slow down the economic recovery that strong domestic travel numbers continue to drive.
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