Nearly three years ago, the U.S. Congress passed the "Real ID" Act, which will mandate that all states begin issuing federally approved driver's licenses starting May 11. The legislative intent includes an increased ability to construct physical barriers at U.S. borders, makes it easier to deport aliens for terrorist activities, changes visa limits for temporary workers, links state-to-state databases and requires the new federally approved driver's licenses (or ID cards).
Several organizations, such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Library Association and our own N.H. Legislature, have expressed concern about the legislation. New Hampshire remains one of the last states in the country to come up to speed with the new licenses. Some New Hampshire politicians are crying foul for a lack of federal money to implement the new law while others are concerned with privacy issues.
The new federal law requires: "A federal agency may not accept a driver's license or personal identification card (DL/ID) after May 11, 2008, unless the state has been certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to meet the requirements of the law."
You might ask what that means to you. Well, the new license or ID cards will be required if you want to drive across state lines, visit a federal government building, collect Social Security, access a federal government service, use the services of a bank or board an airplane without a passport.
Yikes! It will be nearly impossible to survive, travel or conduct business without such an ID. Because of that fact, both the state Legislature and the governor are scrambling to take advantage of a loophole in the law that allows: "The DHS Secretary may grant a state an extension to meet the certification requirement if the state provides adequate justification for noncompliance."
As such, N.H. Senate Bill 434 is being debated this week in Concord as it carries a provision to ask the governor to ask for such an extension. Let's hope DHS is in a generous mood and grants New Hampshire its desperate need for an extension. Otherwise, we'll be in a real pickle with Real ID in just a few short weeks.
Tom Dolan is a longtime Londonderry resident and former town councilor. E-mail your thoughts on his column to email@example.com or mail them to: Derry News, Box 307, Derry, N.H., 03038-4510.