It’s all because of the REAL ID Act of 2005, a set of federal standards passed after 9/11 aimed at making licenses harder to counterfeit. Several states, including Arizona, rejected the mandates. State law currently prohibits Arizona from complying with these federal requirements.
Accepting the REAL ID Act would mean accepting outside intervention in state affairs, say opponents, who feel the bill is too sweeping and intrusive. Some worry that this is a way for the federal government to create a national identity card. Others think it will act like a tracking device, recording people’s whereabouts and providing the government with a way to spy on them.
To comply with the act, states would need to include typical information
on licenses (name, date of birth, gender, license number, a photograph, address, and signature) in addition to “machine-readable technology,
with defined minimum data elements,” and security features to prevent duplication or counterfeiting. To issue these licenses, citizens would have to show proof of identity, including date of birth, proof of social security account number, and documentation of address.
The federal government recommends states offer an alternative labeled “Not for Federal Identification,” so residents that prefer to opt out of the federally compliant version can do so, whether for religious reasons or because they don’t want to verify proof of citizenship. The new system would also require states to retain paper or digital copies of source documents, facial image capture, and for states to provide electronic access to all other states’ database, including data printed on licenses
and drivers’ histories.
Because of this, some state lawmakers and citizens believe this database will be accessible to federal officials, though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains that “there is no Federal database of driver information. Each jurisdiction will issue its own unique license and maintain its own records.”
Timeline for Enforcement
The DHS says REAL ID enforcement for boarding aircraft will happen “no sooner than 2016,” but enforcement in other areas has been rolling out since early 2014. Those with non-conforming licenses are already barred from entering certain federal buildings unless they have alternate identification, such as a passport or Permanent Residency Card.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the airline enforcement is pushed back, given the noncommittal time frame, plus the fact that DHS promises the public will have “ample advanced notice before identification requirements for boarding aircraft change. That notice will include information on the process for individuals with a non-compliant driver’s license or identification card to be able to travel by aircraft.”
But imagine if the timeline isn’t pushed back. It’s hard to picture travelers, entire vacations planned, getting turned away before even reaching the X-ray machine. Depending on how seriously it’s enforced, it may just result in epic delays for passengers without sufficient ID. Even if residents of noncompliant states are informed, it’ll take weeks for them to get a passport (not to mention forking over the money for said passport, especially if they need it rushed).