Nearly a decade after Congress passed the Real ID Act to thwart terrorists from getting driver’s licenses, the law will finally go into effect in April. But 13 states still are not ready.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security repeatedly put off enforcement of the law, as states complained about its costs and civil rights groups objected to it as an invasion of privacy. But in December, while DHS was temporarily headed by counterterrorism expert Rand Beers, the agency unveiled a gradual rollout for enforcing the law.
Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, which supports Real ID, praised the agency for its “deliberate approach.” The slow ramp-up will give the agency time to address practical problems and avoid technical or training snafus before the requirements affect the general public, he said.
“Nobody has ever done this before… so enforcing this law is going to be a major challenge,” said Zimmer, who helped draft the law’s provisions on driver’s licenses as a congressional committee staffer.
But Chris Calabrese, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the new timetable will do little to convince holdout states to comply with the law.
Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Washington state do not currently meet the law’s standards, according to DHS.
Technically, the law does not impose new rules on states. But by requiring Real ID-compliant licenses to board commercial aircraft, the law could put a lot of public pressure on states to issue licenses that meet its standards.