Homeland Security Unveils 'Real ID' Regulations

The Department of Homeland Security has unveiled regulations to implement the Real ID law. The goal of Real ID is to make driver's licenses more secure as personal identification, preventing their use by potential terrorists. States have complained that the law requires them to spend more money on the new licenses.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

There's more news out of the Homeland Security Department today. The agency announced new rules for secure driver's licenses. They'll take effect over the next 10 years. But the consequences could be felt right away for residents of states that don't participate.

NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER: The secure driver's license, or Real ID, was supposed to take effect this year. But states said their DMV offices would be overwhelmed. So now, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the secure licenses won't be required for individuals under age 50 until December 1st, 2014. Those 50 and older have another three years. Chertoff predicted that three types of people would be unhappy with the new IDs.

Secretary MICHAEL CHERTOFF (Department of Homeland Security): Terrorists and people who want to get on airplanes and in federal buildings and avoid terrorist watch lists, illegal immigrants who want to work in this country by pretending to be American citizens, and conmen.

FESSLER: But there are already other unhappy voices including civil libertarians with privacy concerns. Several states have also said they plan to opt out of the program. Chertoff says if they do, there'll be a price.

Sec. CHERTOFF: After May of this year, that state's driver's licenses will no longer be acceptable as a form of federal identification for getting on an airplane or getting into a federal building.

Mr. DAVID QUAM (Director of Federal Relations, National Governors Association): It's always been interesting to me that noncompliance with this is not an issue for the state, but it's foisted on the citizens.

FESSLER: David Quam is director of Federal relations for the National Governors Association.

Mr. QUAM: The devil is going to be in the details to see whether or not we've really made it so that these can be done by states and will actually make us safer.

FESSLER: One question is whether databases will be ready in time, so states can verify if individuals are indeed legal residents.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.

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