The Center for Immigration Studies has released its second comprehensive assessment of the status of secure driver’s license standards. The report fills a void left by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has been silent on the implementation of state license standards in the REAL ID Act of 2005.
The report concludes that by the deadline of January 13, 2013, 36 of the 56 jurisdictions (50 states, Washington D.C., and the five island territories) will be substantially or materially or fully compliant with REAL ID, even if there remains a wide gap between the strongest of state systems and the weakest.
The assessment covers state driver’s license improvements in line with the REAL ID Act, including: overall compliance, production of tamper-resistant cards, verifying and protecting identity before and after issuance, secure card production, and federal funding. The data is compiled in a chart that forms the heart of the report.
Chart analysis shows that (1) states see value in pursuing REAL ID standards because the improvements reduce identity theft and fraud, increase efficiencies, improve customer service, and support law enforcement; (2) states are paying for those improvements with their own budgets outside of federal grant monies; and (3) states are often exceeding REAL ID minimum standards in order to achieve more complete credentialing security.
Specifically, this study finds that:
- In overall compliance, 53 states and territories are embracing REAL ID or the technical tenets of REAL ID; 5 states have submitted REAL ID compliance packages to DHS with a total of 36 materially or substantially materially compliant now or likely will be by the REAL ID deadline of January 15, 2013.
- At least 43 jurisdictions are issuing tamper-resistant cards;
- In identity verification and protection:
- 51 are checking SSNs and the remaining five are currently getting online;
- 47 are registered with DHS to check legal presence through the SAVE database;
- only 5 motor vehicle agencies intend to check vital records prior to issuing a driver’s license despite nearly all vital record agencies having digitized their birth and death records and 36 having installed the EVVE network that enables interstate queries;
- In secure card issuance:
- 32 are issuing their cards from secure or central locations;
- 38 have installed facial recognition software to help reduce fraud and support law enforcement; this technology is expensive and not required by REAL ID.
The states contacted for this report said they no longer have guidance or support from DHS in implementing REAL ID. The Center for Immigration Studies is not in a position to determine the accuracy of state assertions about compliance; instead, the report focuses on states’ self-assessments as to whether benchmarks are met. Thus, the possibility for error exists. Suggestions for corrections from state motor vehicle agencies are welcome.