Documentation Provisions of the Real ID Act
This report examines the sweeping changes in the way identity documents are issued and used under the REAL ID Act, an effort to enhance the security of identity documents in post-9/11 America. According to REAL ID mandates, states are given three years to comply with the act’s provisions, which require state-issued drivers’ licenses and identity cards to bear digitally encoded personal information and possess physical features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication for fraudulent purposes. States are also obliged to maintain motor vehicle databases, which must be electronically accessible by other states.
Although estimates of REAL ID Act implementation costs to states seem to be a matter of dispute, ranging from $100 million to $13 billion, the report suggests that state officials are more or less in accord with regard to concerns over the lack of financial support and technical guidance from the federal government. The report also details additional legal, humanitarian, and security concerns, which include: possible inappropriate transfer of federal functions to state officials; vulnerability of REAL ID databases to exploitation by identity thieves and overzealous enforcement officials; the potential conflict between data-sharing provisions and state privacy laws; lack of additional practical benefits for worksite enforcement; and special burdens for refugees, U.S. citizens born outside the United States, and U.S. nationals born in U.S. territories.