California implements Real ID after 13 years

Lena Bianchi, Design Editor

As of October 1st, 2020, all adults over the age of 18 must have a state-issued Real ID if they wish to board an airplane, enter a federal facility, or access a military base. Like current driver’s licenses, Real IDs display name, driver’s license number, date of birth, expiration date, signature, and international standards for traveling. The only new addition to the identification card is proof of citizenship.

In early January of 2018, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) allowed California citizens to start applying for new ID cards. In order to apply, each applicant must provide their Social Security number along with proof of their identity, citizenship and residency. While current IDs are marked with the words ‘Federal Limits Apply,’ a California Real ID will have a golden bear with a star in the top right corner to prove US citizenship. Current California driver’s licenses can still be used for driving, entering hospitals, receiving federal benefits, and entering federal facilities that don’t require Real IDs, such as a post office. Citizens can also use their passports to fly domestically and show proof of citizenship instead of Real ID.

Congress passed the Real ID Act of 2005 during the Bush administration as a response to 9/11 and to prevent future terrorist attacks. The act required that all states issue licenses that are compliant with certain security and identification information.

It has taken over a decade to enforce and apply these rules in each state. This implementation of the Real ID card initially took a long time due to the lack of funding for the program and the expenses that it placed on individuals.

While Real IDs only cost $35, compiling the necessary documents is difficult for a majority of people who already have a California state issued driver’s license or ID. Miki Alexander ‘19 said, “I feel like it is important that it exists, but I wish [the DMV] would send me a new ID. I don’t want to go to the DMV and get a new ID. It’s a hassle because I already have a driver’s license.”

Some Urban students are unaware of the new requirements of Real ID and question why it is being enforced now. Una Lynch ‘19 asked, “Did Trump do something to reboot it? Did he think that this was a good idea that never happened?”

John Kelly, Trump’s previous Homeland Security Secretary, criticized the Obama administration for not enforcing this law and ignoring the anti-terrorism efforts of the 9/11 Commission.

“I feel like the Trump administration is trying to do a bunch of bureaucratic bulls**t as opposed to actually doing something that is beneficial, and instead of spending money and manpower on things that are really going to make a difference, it’s [spending money on] something that is a hassle to American citizens,” Lynch said.

The implication of dividing documented and undocumented citizens is a significant concern of implementing the  Real ID Act. Amy Argenal, Urban’s Director of Service Learning, said “[the] assumption in some immigrant rights circles is that it is anti-immigrant.”

Since 2013, immigrants and undocumented residents of California have been able to receive state-issued driver’s licenses. By removing the ability to travel with your driver’s license as proof of ID, Real IDs are decreasing the amount of undocumented citizens who can travel within the US. The original goal, as stated by the 9/11 Commission, was to prevent terrorist attacks and make US citizens safer, but the new Real ID policy increases the division between immigrants and citizens.

In the LA Times, opinion writer David L. Ulin said, “Real ID won’t make us safer, it will only divide us. ‘Federal limits apply’? Can there be a redder flag in these dark and distrustful times?”