Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Wednesday urged Congress to pass a bill that could ease the burden of 2005’s REAL ID Act on states and would allow residents of non-compliant states to board commercial flights after Jan. 1.
Based on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, the 2005 REAL ID Act set national requirements for any state-issued identification to be used for federal purposes, such as boarding airline flights or entering a federal courthouses.
If passed and signed into law this year, the Providing Additional Security in States’ Identification (PASS ID) Act would set a 2016 deadline for compliance with federal requirements for state drivers’ licenses—a year earlier than the REAL ID Act—but would erase all intervening deadlines imposed by REAL ID.
The bill further states that “no person shall be denied boarding a commercial aircraft solely on the basis of failure to present a driver’s license or identification card issued pursuant to [the PASS ID Act].”
Eleven states have passed laws refusing to honor the REAL ID Act, including Arizona, where Napolitano served as governor before joining the Obama Administration.
The Department of Homeland Security’s phased implementation schedule for the REAL ID Act gives the “revolt” states until Dec. 31 to commit to comply with REAL ID, after which time their current state-issued IDs would no longer be accepted for federal purposes.
Napolitano called on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to vote on the bill “so it can be considered by both houses of Congress and signed into law this calendar year.”
The PASS ID Act, drafted with input from one of REAL ID’s leading critics, the National Governor’s Association, maintains REAL ID’s requirement that applicants prove legal residence in the United States before receiving a driver’s license or other state-issued photo identification.
PASS ID would eliminate one major requirement of the REAL ID Act: that states create digital copies of vital documents like birth certificates that are used to establish the veracity of license applicant’s stated identities.
Under the REAL ID Act, documents submitted by applicants would be checked against the digital files stored by their issuing agencies. Under the PASS ID Act, the agency fielding the application would simply check the applicant’s data against a database.
Critics of the PASS ID Act, including witness Stewart Baker, assistant secretary of homeland security during the Bush Administration, said the change would gut the REAL ID Act.
“There is no point in having hard-to-forge licenses if they can be obtained simply by showing other documents that are easily forged,” Stewart said.
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