Unless things change in the interim, citizens of several American states may have to show passports in order to fly within the country. After years of delays in enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will finally be enforcing federal ID security requirements that were implemented as part of the REAL ID Act of 2005. Widely derided as a step towards a national ID system when it was passed, the law was quietly ignored by numerous states, causing TSA to delay implementation. That is about to come to an end.
Only about half of the states have complied with the requirements of the REAL ID Act. Many others were granted extensions from compliance that expired on October 10, 2017. Unless they receive further extensions, citizens of those states will no longer be able to use their driver’s licenses as identification to board airplanes. Those states at risk include Illinois, New York, Michigan, Missouri, and Louisiana.
In lieu of a driver’s license, fliers will have to display some other sort of compliant ID, such as a passport, passport card, US military ID, or some other form of TSA-approved identification. Those who don’t have a compliant ID won’t be able to fly.
Come October 1, 2020, even more Americans may be caught up in the TSA’s snare. That’s when residents of states who until now have received extensions from TSA to become compliant will no longer have their driver’s licenses accepted either.
If this sounds Orwellian to you, that’s because it is. Internal passports have long been a hallmark of repressive regimes, from the Soviet Union to apartheid-era South Africa. They are used to monitor the movement of people and restrict the right to freedom of travel.
Resistance from the states had thankfully stymied the development of such a system in the United States for many years, but that resistance may break down in the next few years. For Americans who value their freedom to travel, they might want to take note and urge Congress to overturn the REAL ID Act’s onerous provisions.