It is Time to Comply with REAL ID

by | Sep 17, 2014

Senator Michael O. Moore

For many Americans, using a driver’s license to gain access into a federal building or a commercial airplane is a right often taken for granted. However, a lack of compliance to the federal REAL ID law from the Patrick Administration has caused residents of the Commonwealth to begin to lose these rights.

On May 11, 2005, the REAL ID Act of 2005 was enacted. The law modified US federal law regarding security, authentication and issuance procedures standards for state driver’s licenses and identification cards. The law was part of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. To comply, states must meet certain benchmarks, which are defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security, in order for licenses and IDs to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes,” such as, presenting a state driver’s licenses and ID cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings. Examples of requirements that must be met by states in order to comply with the REAL ID Act include checking a person’s legal status, retaining images and establishing background checks for employees with access to sensitive information

In April 2014, the Department of Homeland Security started a gradual implementation of the REAL ID Act. The second phase of implementation began in July. Twenty states and the District of Columbia received extensions, twenty-one states are considered compliant and three states have special identification cards. Due to lack of compliance, despite warnings issued by the federal government prior to implementation, residents from the six remaining states, Massachusetts, Maine, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona and Louisiana, are no longer allowed to enter restricted areas in federal buildings and nuclear power plants, regardless of reason for the visit, without another ID, such as a passport. Furthermore, unless the Commonwealth complies with the law, residents without other identification will find themselves banned from White House tours next year and commercial airplanes as soon as 2016.

During my six years in the Senate, I have urged the Administration to fully comply with the REAL ID Act in order to prevent those residing in the Commonwealth illegally from receiving unlawful benefits. However, the Administration’s actions have placed legal residents at a disadvantage. The lack of urgency from the Administration, despite ample warning, has forced residents to lose their right to access federal buildings, and unless action is taken, residents will continue to be treated as second rate as more rights are lost. Furthermore, the lack of compliance with the law also places residents at an economic disadvantage. Many individuals, such as senior citizens, do not own a passport due to financial limitations. By adding this need for more secure identification, many will be given a greater financial burden, which could have been avoided.

Residents of the Commonwealth should not be treated as second-rate citizens. This issue is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but an American issue. It is time for the Administration to ensure our borders are protected, preventing those residing in the Commonwealth illegally from obtaining benefits and to prevent legal residents from being unfairly penalized. I urge the Administration to join the other twenty-one states and to come into compliance with the REAL ID Act.