Feds Pressure Illinois to Issue Civilian Identification Cards

The Department of Homeland Security (http://www.dhs.gov/), acting as implementer of the REAL ID Act of 2005, has directed all 50 states to push their adult residents toward universal possession of a standardized identification card. The “REAL ID Card” is expected to replace the familiar state drivers’ license cards possessed by millions of Americans and (http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs) is expected to be significantly more secure than a driver’s license.

Persons will not be eligible to receive a REAL ID Card until they have presented several redundant, secure, and verifiable documents of their identity, including a birth certificate or other proof of lawful status within the United States. Unfortunately, the costs of implanting this program and the verification requirements are anticipated to be significant. The Secretary of State’s office believes that the compliance costs of verifying this documentation will be approximately $3.75 million per year.

Compliance with the REAL ID Act will come through several angles. Federal law points toward the implementation to be no later than December 31, 2014, at which point technically noncompliant state drivers’ licenses became ineligible for use as identification documents when seeking to proceed through an airport to a departure gate for travel. An extension has been granted by the Department for one year. Civilians, in states that have not complied with the REAL ID Act, will be required to present a U.S. federal passport from the U.S. Department of State, or other compliant documentation, for permission to board a flight. The process of applying for a passport is available here: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html.

Following implementation of the REAL ID Act, most holders of Illinois drivers’ licenses will be required to surrender their licenses in order to be issued the new identification card. Language to bring Illinois into compliance with the REAL ID Act is included in SB 1600, a bill introduced on Friday, February 20 in the Illinois Senate. The bill can be found here: http://ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=1600&GAID=13&GA=99&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=88310&SessionID=88.

One feature of the bill, which gives the Secretary and his personnel additional time to perfect their compliance with all of the features of the federal mandate, postpones the date of the hard mandate on the Office of the Secretary of State to actually issue the new cards until July 1, 2016.

The Office may have the cards ready before that date, but SB 1600 will not require them to do so. This raises the possibility that there may be a period of time in early 2016, possibly several months in length, when the REAL ID Card law may be in full sway nationwide and Illinois will not yet be quite ready to issue the required new cards.   

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