Thursday, June 20, 2024

REAL ID passage causes mass confusion

In October of this year, Phase 4 of the Department of Homeland Security’s “REAL ID” Act will be complete, requiring everyone over the age of 18 who wishes to travel by air even domestically to have a form of identification that meets the federal government’s increasing standards.

While this may seem sudden and drastic, this is not a big problem, nor is it a new development. The act was passed in 2005 to make the United States a safer place to travel in the wake of 9/11. The DHS began taking the steps in 2013, according to its website.

Phase 1 consisted of requiring ‘REAL ID’ for the DHS’s Nebraska Avenue Complex. Phase 2 extended this notion to all restricted federal areas and nuclear power plants.

Phase 3 further reached out to “semi-restricted areas,” places where the public could go but need to show ID.

Phase 4 is the one that seems to be causing trouble, which requires the use of the new ID system for anyone over 18 trying to fly. This could, potentially, be an issue, if it were enacted forcefully and quickly.

Some people wonder if the DHS warned the public enough to enforce it as soon as October, while others like the American Civil Liberties Union are against the act in its entirety. It’s website states this would, “bring [the] government into the very center of every citizen’s life,” and would violate people’s privacy, but they offer no proof to its claim.

Using the standardized form of ID actually makes a lot of sense, and rather than invading privacy, it serves to streamline any process that requires IDs by reducing variety.

Meanwhile, the real dilemma of instituting this new form of identification seems to be the question whether the DHS has left itself enough time to properly inform the public of this decision.

However, this isn’t actually a problem. As it turns out, October is the final deadline for these IDs. A simple Google search reveals that the DHS began notifying and educating citizens in January of 2016 with flyers in DMV offices and notices posted in airports. By the end of that month, there was full enforcement of the new rules, with some exceptions allowed for people who were not informed and did not have the proper ID.

This new October deadline? It is actually the point where the government will no longer grant exceptions to the enforcement, which began over four years ago.

If four years is not enough time for the American public to be informed, then no amount of time will be enough.

On top of that, the act is meant to be a standardization of all IDs. It requires that compliant identification have the following: full legal name, date of birth, signature, a front facing photo of the person, gender, address and unique ID number.

New York State began issuing the new, compliant form of driver’s licenses in November of 2017, according to the Chicago Tribune. While it does make waiting in line at the DMV much worse, the only people who need to worry about getting one are those who have not had their license renewed or first acquired when the new ID was enacted.

There also will not be much of a cost concern. For people who need the new ID, getting it will cost about as much as getting an existing license enhanced, about $30 to $40. Because this is the new ID standard in New York State, everyone who has gotten their license for the first time or got it renewed in the last two years has been updated smoothly with no extra charge.

For students traveling abroad and people attempting to visit the U.S., this should not present too much of an issue. Other compliant forms of ID include passports and passport cards, as well as military IDs and special DHS cards. Considering that passports are required to cross the border, the issue is not a big one.

Phase 4 of this act was implemented years ago, but it seems that many people simply did not realize it even though it became mandatory, because it was put into place with no hassle. This new deadline appears to have incited a bit of panic in those who did not know about it and think they are running out of time.

“I guess more than anything, it made me anxious at first. I thought I had missed out on some deadline, or was going to, and then I wouldn’t be able to fly because of something I didn’t know about. The things they sent out and posted definitely need to be clearer,” (Insert major) Emily Fountain siad, after receiving a letter in the mail about renewing her license.

This is almost exclusively a panic caused by lack of information and not money or other concerns. More education about the October deadline and what constitutes a ‘REAL ID’ should be circulated by the DHS to curb the mass confusion. Once people realize what the act really is and how long it has been in place, it is likely that there will be no further issues.

Now, 15 years later, its final stages are coming into effect, and the education and awareness of American citizens is important to its success.


Email River Ashe Maynard at

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