Cantwell, Wicker, Other Congressional Leaders Raise Concerns About REAL ID Deadline

According to Washington Department of Licensing, only 15 percent of Washingtonians have a REAL ID-compliant license

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Roger Wicker (R-MS), the chairman of the committee, sent a letter with other congressional leaders to Acting Secretary Chad Wolf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to inquire about the agency’s contingency plans regarding the upcoming REAL ID Act implementation deadline.

“We are increasingly concerned about potential disruptions to air travel if significant numbers of travelers present themselves at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints without acceptable forms of identification,” the members wrote. “According to TSA, only 27 percent of Americans have been issued a REAL ID-compliant license. Furthermore, a recent survey revealed only 43 percent of Americans are aware of the deadline and concluded that 85,000 travelers could be denied access to their flights on the first day of implementation of REAL ID at airports if preparedness does not improve.”

“DHS’s efforts will play a crucial role in ensuring that the public is aware of the deadline and takes the necessary steps to acquire compliant identification,” the members continued. “Additionally, it is critical that the Department do everything possible to ensure that Americans are not needlessly prevented from boarding flights to engage in business and tourism and visit family and friends. DHS should also develop contingency plans to deal with disruption at airports.”

According to the Washington state Department of Licensing, as of November 2019, only 15 percent of Washington state driver’s licenses and ID cards are currently compliant with REAL ID requirements, which go into effect nationwide in October 2020. Because Washington’s enhanced IDs are not marked with a star, as the REAL ID-compliant licenses are in many other states, the state is taking a number of steps to educate residents about what they need in advance of the deadline for compliance with federal REAL ID requirements.

In addition to Cantwell and Wicker, the letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Sam Graves (R-MO), chairman and ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and U.S. Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman and ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.

The full text of the letter is available HERE.