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May 11th, 2012 will mark four years since DHS' original deadline challenge to States to comply with Real ID regulations.
Looking back to May 2008, many doubled up on identity theft prevention services, aluminum wallets, RFID shields and banking encryption to fend off the digital privacy drawbacks of carrying a national ID card. Sometime later, the Real ID Act was banned in over 25 States legislatures who cited potential loss of privacy and expensive costs as reasons to Opt-out of the program. The law became virtually unenforceable as a national identity system, but are citizens and residents really free and clear of the negative impacts stemming from Real ID?
While the Obama Administration pledged there would be no enforcement of Real ID regulations, there has been an increase in identity requirements nationwide and some appropriations to States this year for the program. These actions seem to be consistent with a Homeland Security hearing discussion; which no longer defers the national deadline for individual compliance. It is now set for January 15th, 2013.
While Attorney General Eric Holder maintains an objection to Voter ID requirements, he maintains the regulatory requirement to present an ID card at an armed checkpoint to gain admittance at his office at the Dept. of Justice. The AG's actions speak louder than his words in this case. You can be on the lookout for identity requirements at high profile federal facilities, but don't expect to get pestered for ID to gain entry to your local Post Office.
DHS pilot programs abound, featuring new technologies at TSA airport checkpoints nationwide. Four airports are trying a new ID scanning program; which aims to expedite fliers through ID verification checks. Expect an increase a demand at airports for "official" federal documentation, a US passport or Real ID certified drivers license, in January 2013. Less than 20 States are aiming for federal certification of their drivers licenses. Frequent fliers should to look into getting a US passport. However, watch out for passport price hikes and a very fishy questionnaire asking deeply personal information. A voluntary passport questionnaire issued by the US State Department drew fiery criticism and complaints last year for being too invasive. The advice still stands: it's not in the best interests of personal privacy to turn in the passport questionnaire.
3) Exhaustive documentation is required to renew your drivers license.
This year Ohio, Alabama, West Virginia and New Jersey begin a longer, more punishing journey through the bureaucratic trials to legally drive at local DMV offices. Each State's identity requirements differ, but all Real ID certification increases the demand for additional documents if you want to renew your license. The difficulty levels of attaining the required identity range from accessible to impossible. The paperwork quest may start at a piece of mail or utility bill and end at an unattainable birth record or marriage certificate. Many elderly persons birth records pre-date birth certification and hospitalization conventions. In Florida, many women cannot reproduce previous marriage records. This has delayed working women from renewing their license. Veterans coasting on the virtues of their military ID have been met with an ask for more proof of identity. In Oklahoma, refusing a biometric (fingerprint) requirement may keep you off the road, from being able to complete bank transactions or get prescription medicine. For these newer States their nightmare has just begun.
4) Your application for US political asylum has been denied.
High profile political refugees, like Chinese dissident Chen Guancheng, will be shedding more light on the asylum prospects for dissidents in the United States. Many lesser known cases of Chinese dissidents and other immigrant refugees worldwide have been denied political asylum over strident proof of travails in correspondences with government officials due to the Real ID Act.
"To qualify for asylum under section 208 of the Act the respondent must show that he is a refugee within the meaning of section 101(a)(42) of the Act. See Section 208(a) of the Act. The definition of refugee includes a requirement that the respondent demonstrate either that he suffered past persecution or that he has a well-founded fear of future persecution in his country of nationality or, if stateless, his country of last habitual residence on account of one of the same five statutory grounds. The REAL ID Act specifies that the applicant must establish that one of the five grounds was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant. To establish a well-founded fear of future persecution the alien must show he has a subjective fear of persecution and that the fear has an objective basis. The well-founded fear standard required for asylum is more generous than the clear probability standard of withholding of removal. INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987). Finally, an applicant must also establish that asylum is warranted in the exercise of discretion.According to Maria Ciancarulo, at Villanova University School of Law, "Unfortunately, the law has far more potential to undermine the legitimate goals of the asylum system than it does strengthen national security."
In many cases, the returning conditions are very harsh, even lethal, for applicants seeking protection from government death threats, sexual torture and political imprisonment.
5) Passport demands and movement limitations increase to cross Continental borders, at fences and checkpoints.
The adoption of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative regulations, codified in the Real ID Act, requires travellers crossing US borders into Canada and Mexico to provide a pristine passport at checkpoints. For several years, border rights advocates and environmentalists have complained their local constitutions and federal protections are being overwritten by federal agencies to build a border fence between the US and Mexico. Today, a federal bill HR 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act expands upon Real IDs land grabbing legacy. The bill allows Customs and Border Patrol checkpoints and border surveillance to legally reach up to 100 miles inland of the Continental United States, at all sea and land borders. Recently, Canada and the US had met with Mexico's PM to discuss protocols for Beyond the Borders, which in the past has included talks on how data and intelligence would be shared in North America. Mexican passports are now being given extra scrutiny in terrorism screening by the US State Department.
2012 and Real ID in The States
To date, over 25 States have legally rejected Real ID as a national identity program and many continue to urge repeal or reform of the troubled statute. Don't use that as a resting point. The Obama Administration continues to move ahead with both funding and regulatory compliance for the upcoming deadline after the new year.