July 11, 2013

As the July 8 editorial “Licensing illegal immigrants” noted, the D.C. Council recently pitted District residents against the federal government in a game of chicken over the REAL ID Act. The odds look good for the feds and bad for Washingtonians — who won’t want to face secondary screening every time they fly.

The intent of the REAL ID Act, which requires states to meet common-sense anti-fraud measures when issuing driver’s licenses, was to impede another operation like Sept. 11, 2001, where hijackers used identification documents to board their flights. Since that day, 50 known terror plots have been stopped. The Boston Marathon bombing mastermind had a reading list of ID counterfeiting guides. Terrorists continue to follow al-Qaeda’s advice to obtain fake IDs.

Now, the D.C. Council seeks to buck the federal government’s security requirements and join New Mexico and Washington state as jurisdictions that issue driver’s licenses without the necessary REAL ID benchmark to verify lawful presence. When the Department of Homeland Security enforces the REAL ID deadline as promised, the Transportation Security Administration will not allow New Mexico and Washington’s driver’s licenses to be used as proof of identity. Furthermore, both states have seen a dramatic rise in the number of fraudulent attempts by criminal enterprises to obtain valid IDs. The D.C. Council should be reminded that the District needs to be on the forefront of this security issue, not lagging with Washington and New Mexico.

Max Bluestein, Washington

The writer is the director of research and state relations for the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License.