Post 9/11 Drivers License Law Could Be Delayed

Those who use driver’s licenses that don’t meet federal criteria may face “undue burden and confusion” if the Biden administration intends to suspend enforcement of a statute requiring driver’s license security standards to prevent terrorist attacks.

After hijackers used security gaps to get hundreds of driver’s licenses from different states, Congress approved the REAL ID Act to create a more secure nationwide system less susceptible to fraud. The law was enacted in 2005, with a compliance deadline 2011, but the Obama administration sought to water it down. 

By 2020, the DHS had confirmed that all 50 states had complied with the REAL ID Act, with the majority doing so in response to pressure from the Trump administration. In less than a year, REAL ID will be fully enforced at all airports, government institutions, and nuclear power plants under federal jurisdiction.

The government is currently attempting to postpone the implementation of REAL ID beyond the pandemic postponement by attempting to exclude those licenses that do not adhere to the required security measures. To get around REAL ID requirements, the White House has asked DHS to draft a proposed regulation allowing federal agencies to accept non-compliant licenses, such as mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs), which lack the necessary safeguards. 

Eight states already issue mDLs that may be stored on a person’s mobile device, offering “potential benefits of increased convenience.” To ensure federal entities may accept state-issued mDLs that fulfill specific security and data integrity criteria, the White House is drafting a proposed regulation allowing DHS to provide states a temporary waiver of some REAL ID regulatory requirements.

The federal government worries that states may squander time and money on mDL protections that don’t adhere to REAL ID security standards. The government worries about the unfair treatment of groups, such as discrimination or exclusion of families or small enterprises. Unemployed families may have difficulty verifying income, and individuals juggling numerous jobs may find it challenging to visit government offices. 

The government’s national security blunders will become apparent over time.