The federal government has ‘no fly’ and ‘enhanced screening’ lists, where they check the names of passengers and decide under what conditions someone is allowed to travel, if at all. It’s a form of pre-crime profiling where people have been added to the list by mistake, for revenge, or for any number of reasons that you aren’t allowed to know. The government claims it’s exempt from judicial review.
The requirement of an ID to fly, though, actually began as a ‘do something’ policy after the explosion of TWA flight 800. President Clinton demanded to be able to immediately announce new airline security measures, and told his National Security Council team to come up with some.
This process is meaningless, though, if people can change the name they fly under. So in 2005 Congress passed requirements for IDs that are harder to fake. Since then, however, rules requiring people to actually have a ‘REAL ID’ have been kicked down the road. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic I said this would be the perfect excuse to delay it again because nobody wanted travelers hassled or refused entry past security weeks before a presidential election. So they pushed it out to March 3, 2023.
I roll my eyes every time I see airline websites touting the deadline, and signs at the airport, because why should I believe it now? Indeed, it’s now been pushed out again – this time to May 7, 2025. And would you believe they’re blaming Covid?
The extension is necessary, in part, to address the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability to obtain a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card. REAL ID progress over the past two years has been significantly hindered by state driver’s licensing agencies having to work through the backlogs created by the pandemic. Many of these agencies took various steps in response to the pandemic including automatically extending the expiration dates of driver’s licenses and identification cards and shifting operations to appointment only.
A ‘real ID compliant’ license has to have a person’s full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, a unique identifying number, home address, and a front-facing photo.
Prior to issuing a ‘real ID compliant’ license, a state has to require:
- A photo ID (they make you present a photo ID to get a photo ID..) or ID that includes full name and birth date
- Documentation of birth date (usually a birth certificate)
- Proof of legal status (if you’re undocumented, better to just drive without taking a test) and social security number (something you didn’t even have to have when I was born)
- Documentation of your residential address
Remember this? You weren’t going to be able to fly without a REAL ID in 2018.
About 2000 people a day fly without any ID, of course, so the requirement to have a REAL ID isn’t exactly correct. They make you answer personal questions derived from a giant database about you and other Americans to prove your identity instead.
If REAL ID actually goes into effect in May 2025 it’ll be 20 years after Congress required it by law. I thought there was some chance it could happen in March 2023, since that would be far enough away from any election. Now it’ll be six months after the next presidential, so up to whomever wins that election to decide whether or not it happens.