Maine licenses and IDs still not good enough for DHS

The Homeland Security Department has told Maine Gov. John Baldacci his state’s credentialing system does not meet its standards for the Real  ID Act. If the state does not promise by tomorrow to make changes, Maine residents must bring passports instead of state-issued driver's licenses in May if they want to fly on commercial aircraft.

Maine is the only state that has not been granted an extension for complying with the law  — a new set of federal regulations for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The final rule states that as of May 11, residents of states that have not been granted extensions must use other forms of identification to fly on commercial aircraft and enter federal buildings.
Many state legislatures have passed laws against Real ID implementation, including Maine's Legislature. However, DHS has granted even those states, except Maine, extensions. The department most recently gave Montana, New Hampshire and South Carolina extra time despite their defiance of the federal Real ID mandate. DHS decided to give those states extensions because of security measures they had put in place, on their own accord, that coincide with those required by Real ID.

However,  on the March 31 deadline for requesting an extension, DHS told Baldacci his state’s credentialing enhancements hadn’t made the grade for an extension.

“The U.S. is only as secure as its weakest link,” Stewart Baker, DHS’ assistant secretary for policy, wrote to Baldacci. “Unfortunately, Maine’s licenses offer far less security than its neighbors do.”

Baldacci had written on March 25 to DHS detailing the steps Maine had taken to secure credentials and urging the federal government to allow Maine residents to continue to use their state-issued IDs to board commercial aircraft and enter federal buildings, despite the state law preventing it  from complying  with the Real ID Act. Similar pleas had worked for Montana, New Hampshire and — on yesterday's deadline — South Carolina.

Residents in states with extensions can continue to use their old IDs to board aircraft and enter federal buildings through Dec. 1, 2014, and through Dec. 1, 2017, if the holder is older than 50. DHS’ Real ID plan aims to satisfy requirements laid out in the Real ID Act of 2005, which mandates that the federal government establish national standards to strengthen the integrity of state driver’s licenses.

Baker said although some other states that rejected Real ID had been given extensions not because they vowed to comply with the federal mandate, but because they were meeting the requirements of the law in spirit — Maine had not done enough. He criticized Maine for being one of six states that allow the issuance of driver's licenses to aliens who cannot prove they are in the United States legally and for not requiring residency for issuing identification. 

However, DHS did offer Baldacci until 5 p.m. on April 2 to say that the state will move to comply with the spirit of  Real ID’s security measures.

Baker's letter said DHS would be prepared to grant a conditional extension if Maine agreed to the following:

  • Stop giving licenses to those not lawfully in the United States or at least mark licenses issued to illegal immigrants as “not for official purposes.”

  • Use the DHS System for Alien Verification Electronically to verify DHS documents presented by noncitizens.

  • Make licenses issued to legal noncitizens expire when their legal status ends.

  • Take photographs at the start of the license process at the state's department of motor vehicles.

  • Use facial recognition software or similar technology to prevent people from receiving multiple credentials by using different names.

  • Make effective by Dec. 15 any related measures that must be adopted by the Legislature

  • Make effective in 60 days any related measures that can be adopted by executive order.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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