April 2, 2008 | By Richard Esguerra

Department of Homeland Security "Blinks" and Offers Real ID Extensions to Holdout States

We've written previously about the showdown between the states and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over Real ID -- a federal mandate that seeks to turn states' driver's licenses into national identity cards. Several states have rightfully vowed to oppose Real ID because it's expensive and a massive violation of privacy for their citizens.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security gave the states an ultimatum: If you aren't going to implement Real ID by May 2008, file for an extension by March 31, 2008. If you don't file for an extension, you risk having your states' ID's rejected when your citizens try to get on planes or enter federal buildings in May.

The DHS offered this extension option partially because the May deadline was too tight for many states, regardless of whether they approved or opposed Real ID. More sneakily, however, the extension offer was also a way for the DHS to delay a looming conflict with states that refused to implement the destructive provisions.

A few holdout states refused to cave to the delaying tactic. Days before the March 31st deadline, Montana and South Carolina stood strong and stared down the agency's threats, rejecting Real ID in letters addressed to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff -- but the DHS "blinked" and responded by treating the letters as requests for extensions instead. The agency also sparred with Maine, eventually granting an post-deadline extension after negotiating over some of the more isolated Real ID provisions.

Ultimately, the delays and extensions can't stand against the arguments overwhelmingly pointing to the repeal of the flawed Real ID Act. Even states that made extension requests have included caveats -- take California, whose Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles wrote, "California's request for an extension is not a commitment to implement REAL ID, rather it will allow us to fully evaluate the impact of the final regulations and precede with necessary policy deliberations prior to a final decision on compliance."

Otherwise, leaders in Congress recognize Real ID as flawed legislation and it faces broad opposition from the states saddled with implementing it. Keep the issue on Congress' plate by demanding a repeal of Real ID through our Action Center.


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