Passports to Become National ID Cards?

In the name of national security, we are dangerously close to having a national identity card, which will be required for all internal air travel (and, sooner or later, for other forms of travel as well). But it’s not federally issued driver’s licenses, or even state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs made to conform to federal standards. It will more likely be the passport, that expensive and cumbersome travel document required for travel to many destinations overseas prior to 9/11, and for all foreign travel, including to Canada and Mexico, since new cross-border security standards were set up in the last decade. Gone for Americans are the days of weekend fishing trips to Canada, family visits to both sides of Niagara Falls, or a day trip to Tijuana from San Diego — unless you go to the time and considerable expense (now about $150 and several weeks of wait time) of obtaining a passport. Even little children must have passports for travel outside the United States, and these must be renewed every five years (rather than 10 years for adults). The new passport requirement has made casual travel to the Great White North for fishing or hunting a thing of the past for many lower-income Americans.


Now the federal government appears bent on making the possession of a passport a requirement for domestic air travel as well. For a number of years, the federal government has been trying to coerce the states into making all driver’s licenses “Real-ID” compliant — that is, in conformity with federally mandated standards of security that includes a long list of features mandated by the Real ID Act of 2005 and enforced with increasingly authoritarian enthusiasm by the Department of Homeland Security. The original year for all states to comply with Real ID was 2011, but it has since been moved forward repeatedly under pressure from state governments reluctant to tender unquestioning obedience to this latest federal edict. As of now, driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs from all 50 states may continue to be used for domestic air travel until January 22, 2018, when air passengers from states whose driver’s licenses are not yet Real-ID compliant will need to present a second form of photo ID to board domestic flights.


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