Lost amid the coverage of fiscal cliff negotiations and preparations for end-of-the-year holidays, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Dec. 20, 2012, that only 13 states were deemed REAL ID-compliant and that the remaining states would receive a fourth extension to reach compliance.
Facing a final compliance deadline of Jan. 15, 2013, only Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming have met the law’s requirements, according to DHS.
The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 based on 9/11 Commission findings that 18 of the 19 hijackers who took over airplanes and crashed them on Sept. 11, 2001, had acquired a total of 28 driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs in five states. The commission called on the federal government to establish minimum security standards for license issuance and production.
Consequently, the REAL ID law prohibits federal agencies from accepting documents issued by a state unless DHS determines that the state meets the minimum standards.
“Other states have not provided sufficient information, at this time, for DHS to determine if they meet the Act’s requirements. These states will have an opportunity to respond with additional information before DHS makes a final determination. DHS will continue to receive and review state submissions on a rolling basis,” the department said in a press release.
The department also announced that it will begin enforcement of the REAL ID rules during calendar year 2013. “The exact end date, as well as the process for individual states to request continued deferments, will be part of an announcement detailing the schedule for phased enforcement of the Act,” DHS said.
DHS expects to publish an enforcement schedule by early fall 2013 and begin implementation soon thereafter. What that enforcement will look like is unknown at this time.
Until the schedule is implemented, federal agencies may continue to accept for official purposes driver’s licenses and identity cards issued by all states.
That means that until the autumn of 2013, those seeking to board aircraft or enter federal facilities or use IDs for other official means may continue to do so with current, valid state-issued IDs.
‘DHS Has a Credibility Issue’
Due to the lack of consistent messaging by DHS, many of the states’ Department of Motor Vehicles agencies have strong reservations about REAL ID’s fate, said Andrew Meehan, policy analyst for the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License (CSDL), a not-for-profit crime prevention advocacy organization.
“DHS has a credibility issue,” Meehan told SHRM Online. DHS repeatedly told the states that they were going to adhere to the Jan. 15, 2013, deadline and then issued another extension, he said.
“This is embarrassing. If you’re a DMV head, you’re already under eight layers of bureaucracy, you’re building a budget, you have to argue for funding, you’re telling your state legislatures and your governor’s office, ‘This is what DHS is telling us,’ and it didn’t come.”
Regular and more consistent communication with the states is crucial in getting the states to participate in the goal of securing identification, Meehan said.
CSDL President Brian Zimmer commended the DMV employees of the 13 compliant states. “We know that this has been difficult and time-consuming for the driver’s license agencies in those 13 states that have pushed through the needed reforms to meet DHS’s security standards,” Zimmer told SHRM Online.
“Those states not yet meeting REAL ID rules now know that enforcement is coming, and that they have less than a year to take steps to ensure that their citizens will be able to board airplanes or enter federal buildings,” he said.
Jennifer Cohan, director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles, detailed Delaware’s experience meeting the REAL ID standards during a Jan. 28, 2013, Heritage Foundation panel discussion.
The state has been issuing REAL ID-compliant documents since July 2010.
She noted that, “going slow and steady was very crucial to our success. We recognized early on it wasn’t the right thing to do because of the law, it was the right thing to do for our citizens for identity protection.”
When examining its driver’s license records database as part of the compliance process, Delaware discovered 18,000 Social Security discrepancies and 1,300 imposters who had obtained valid driver’s licenses in prior years. “Most of these people had on average between nine to 20 different identities. Some of those people were actually in major crime syndicates,” Cohan said.
Becoming REAL ID-compliant has increased security procedures at places of issuance as well, Cohan said, including establishing secure rooms for the actual production of the license, training front-line DMV employees in fraudulent document recognition and rearranging the license issuance process for the customer. The photo-taking of the applicant has been moved to the first step of the license issuance process. After the photo is taken, a facial recognition scan is processed while the rest of the application is finished.
“We do real-time Social Security checks, real-time immigration checks, and capturing that photo is crucial for us,” she said. “With state-of-the-art technology and trained employees, it has been working out very well for us,” she added.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.
Security Vulnerabilities Remain as REAL ID Act Deadline Nears, SHRM Online Safety & Security, October 2012
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