01.30.20

Peters, Colleagues Raise Concerns about REAL ID Deadline

Up to 85,000 Air Travelers Could be Stranded without a Compliant ID Card

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues to press the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for details on its contingency plans regarding the October 1, 2020 deadline for the switch to REAL ID Act-compliant identification cards. Beginning October 1st, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will require all air travelers over the age of 18 to present REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses to fly, but only 27% of Americans have been issued compliant IDs and 43% of Americans are unaware of the deadline, according to a recent survey. DHS has said it has no plans to extend the deadline. As many as 85,000 travelers could be blocked from flying on the first day of implementation if steps are not taken to improve preparedness for the change.

“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. 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,” Peters and his colleagues wrote.

In a letter to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, Peters and his colleagues noted the need for contingency plans to address air travel interruptions in the event that large numbers of travelers present insufficient identification on or after the deadline. The letter also requested updates on the Department’s ongoing public awareness campaign about the REAL ID switch.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Peters is dedicated to keeping Michiganders safe, protecting our national security and ensuring air travel security. Michiganders must obtain a REAL ID before the October 1st deadline to prevent possible disruption in their travel. Michigan REAL ID- compliant cards have a gold star in the upper right corner. Although domestic air travel will still be permitted with a passport, it is best to keep all your identification accurate and up to date. Michiganders looking to update their ID can find out more from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.

Peters was joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Sam Graves (R-MO), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Read the full letter to Acting Secretary Wolf here.

The Honorable Chad F. Wolf

Acting Secretary 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

2707 Martin Luther King Jr Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20528-0525

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

We write to inquire about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s plans regarding the upcoming REAL ID Act implementation deadline.   Under DHS’s stated plans, beginning October 1, 2020, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license (or other acceptable form of ID) to fly within the United States.   DHS has stated that the agency has no plans to extend the October 1, 2020, compliance 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.  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.  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.  

We are encouraged by the Department’s increased public awareness campaign.  As the leadership of key congressional committees with interest in this topic, we will continue to hold the Department accountable on this matter and request that you keep us informed of the Department’s progress.  To help inform our committees’ oversight, please describe by February 7, 2020, the Department’s efforts to develop contingency plans to prepare for potential disruptions at screening checkpoints that may accompany the October 1, 2020, deadline should a significant number of travelers arrive without a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or other acceptable forms of identification (e.g. passport, military ID).

We appreciate your prompt attention to this important matter and look forward to working with you to ensure America’s air transportation system remains safe, secure, and efficient.

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