Washington state lawmakers will vote Monday on Senate Bill 5008, which would demarcate driver’s licenses with enhanced security extensions issued or renewed in 2018.
SB5008, which would allow the Department of Licensing (DOL) to modify driver’s licenses to distinguish standard ones from those that comply with the REAL ID Act, has been passed by the state senate and is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Transportation on April 3. If passed, starting in 2018 SB5008 will let the DOL mark each new or renewed license with an indication of Real ID compliance. Non-compliant licenses will likely say “Federal Limitations Apply,” or something to that effect, according to Tony Sermonti, Legislative Director of the DOL.
SB5008 would also repeal statutes that prohibit the state from complying with the REAL ID Act, an immigration policy that requires residents with state driver’s licenses to acquire an enhanced license or provide an alternative form of acceptable identification to visit federal facilities, military bases or board commercial flights.
The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 after the 9/11 Commission found that 18 of the 19 hijackers that carried out the attack in 2001 had acquired driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs in five states. This policy establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production by requiring the state to issue driver’s licenses and IDs to those who can provide proof of legal residence.
To acquire a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, a resident must provide proof of legal residence. Washington state is one of two states in this country—New Mexico being the other—that doesn’t require proof of legal presence to attain a driver’s license.
Enforcement of the REAL ID Act has been neglected and delayed. Even now, more than a decade later, only 26 states are compliant with the policy, according to the Department of Homeland Security. 13 states have an extension through October this year to comply and eight states, including Washington and Oregon, have until June 6, 2017. Noncompliant states include Maine, Minnesota, Missouri and Montana.
The REAL ID Act requires states to use a database created by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service called the Systematic Alien Verification Service, or SAVE, to verify legal immigration status. This database, according to Janice Kephart from the Center for Immigration Studies, the Obama administration made clear, “will not be populated with the persons from the deferred action program.”
While undocumented citizens who have work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, can travel freely within the country under the REAL ID Act and SB5008, they won’t be issued a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license with a security extension. DACA recipients will need another form of government identification—a passport or a work permit, for example—to enter federal facilities, military bases or board commercial flights. That said, the new laws will not prevent people from entering veteran’s hospitals, courts, social security offices and other such facilities.
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