The Department of Homeland Security released its final regulations for the REAL ID Act, which sets standards for U.S. driver’s licenses. But California’s Department of Motor Vehicles called the act unnecessary and may not comply.
The 9/11 Commission urged the DHS to set standards for issuing driver’s licenses in order to prevent terrorism and illegal entry into the U.S. The REAL ID Act is not a federal mandate, but all states that agree to comply will be required to share their information with other states and the federal government.
Mike Marando, Deputy Director of Communications at California DMV, said that the state is already using holograms, fingerprinting and other security protections.
“California is already at the forefront of security protection,” said Marando. “We have concerns about funding, security and privacy for our citizens and will need take a closer look before
we agree to comply.”
Amy Kudwa, spokesperson for the DHS Office of Public Affairs, said that REAL ID is not a national identification card. All states will continue to use their uniquely designed driver’s licenses as long as they contain the security elements specified in the Act. This includes the use of digital photos, holograms and a machine-readable area, which most states are already using.
REAL ID does not establish a national database for storing information, according to Kudwa. It will provide a central location that will drive a state’s query to other state’s databases, the immigration database and other agencies to verify information before a license is approved.
The federal system will send an approval to the requesting state DMV office after it performs its check. If the query is not approved, the information will be stored in the state’s database and recalled if future attempts for approval are queried from other DMV offices.
“The act isn’t about having uniform driver’s licenses,” said Kudwa. “It’s more about getting the states to share their information with each other and check that information against the federal system for validation purposes.”
Many critics of the regulations argue that REAL ID creates a federal intrusion on the states, which violates the Tenth Amendment. The amendment says that powers not delegated by the Constitution are reserved to the states. But REAL ID gives the federal government the power to decide who gets a driver’s license in each state and how that driver’s license will be used.
“It sounds too risky to me,” said Elizabeth Currlin, a CSUN communications major with a minor in political science. “If we give the Feds this power, what will they ask for next?”
The initial ruling of the REAL ID Act was issued in 2005 with an effective compliance date of May 11, 2008 and an overall cost of $14.6 billion. Marando said that the cost for the DMV would be approximately $500 million.
California, along with 47 other states, was granted an extension to Dec. 31, 2009 to conduct a more diligent review of the regulations. Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington states have refused compliance. California DMV cited concerns with funding, security and privacy for its citizens.
“REAL ID is something DHS was asked to come up with after Sept. 11 as a matter of national security,” said Marando. “We feel that they should pay for it, not the states.”
DHS released its final regulations on January 11, 2007 and reduced the cost to $3.9 billion over 10 years. In addition, they made $380 million available to states in the form of grants.
In the final regulations, people born after 1964 will have until 2017 to obtain their REAL ID licenses. People born before 1964 will have until 2014 to be compliant. These extended dates significantly reduced the initial overall cost.
California issues approximately 2 million driver’s licenses and ID cards each year. Under the REAL ID Act, citizen’s information would be made available in databases across the states. Many states and organizations such as the American Civil Rights Union have raised concerns about identity theft.
Psychology major Stephanie Haibloom has been a victim of identify theft and said that she would not trust the federal government to keep the state’s information secured.
“This leaves the door wide open for identity theft,” said Hailboom. “There have been way too many cases of the federal government as well as private enterprise losing people’s vital information and of course, it all ends up on the Internet being sold.”
The DHS has addressed the issue of identity theft in their final rule, which “prohibits the release and use of information inconsistent with the Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.”
In addition, REAL ID compliant states will be required to submit their internal security plans to the DHS describing their documentation security, retention and destruction procedures.
“We know that one-third of all economic crimes involves the use of driver’s licenses,” said Kudwa. “That’s one of things REAL ID will prevent by validating licenses.”
Erin McCaslin, a former CSUN student and Van Nuys Airport human resources representative, said driver’s licenses are the most common document used in processing a new hire.
“We do a background check with the DMV when a license is presented,” said McCaslin. “We have to rely on their information.”
Kudwa said that while many states have come a long way in their security measures, there are still some DMV offices that do not check for legal status and relying on their information can create a security risk.
McCaslin said that she would be hesitant to trust security measures at the DMV offices and at the federal level where personal information can easily be retrieved without the individual’s knowledge.
California has until Dec. 31, 2009 to decide if it will comply with REAL ID. After the effective date, citizens in non-compliant states will not be able to use their driver’s licenses at airports or federal buildings.