December 18, 2009

No Air Travel Disruptions - REAL ID Deadline Extended

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Congressman Ben Ray Luján today announced that the Department of Homeland Security has officially extended the Dec. 31 deadline for compliance with the REAL ID Act, ensuring that New Mexicans planning domestic air travel over the New Year won't face disruptions because of new identification requirements.

Last week, Bingaman, Udall and Luján received assurances from the Department of Homeland Security that New Mexico travelers planning to use a state-issued identification to travel after Dec. 31 will not encounter problems.

The three had previously asked DHS Secretary Janet Napalitano to extend the deadline and provide assurances that air travel would not be disrupted, saying that a large majority of states - including New Mexico - were not expected to be in compliance and that enforcing the deadline would cause a significant disruption in air travel. In their letters, they urged DHS to quickly clarify its plans regarding the implementation of the REAL ID Act.

"REAL ID had caused quite a bit of confusion and uncertainty for New Mexicans who have holiday plans that may require air travel. I am happy to report that the extension has been made official by the Department of Homeland Security just as we reported last week," Udall said.

"This decision makes it clear that New Mexicans' travel plans will not be interrupted by REAL ID. Now the important work of finding a long-term solution to this problem must get underway," Bingaman said.

"I am encouraged that the Department of Homeland Security has officially decided to extend the implementation of REAL ID, allowing people to fly after December 31st without additional complications," Luján said. "There has been significant concern among the people of New Mexico about this law, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to resolve the issues associated with it."

In 2005, Congress passed legislation -- called the REAL ID Act -- requiring states to tighten requirements related the issuance of drivers' licenses because they are used as a standard form of identification for a variety of federal purposes, including air travel. While Bingaman, Udall and Lujan support strengthening the standards governing IDs, they were concerned about a National Governors Association estimate that a majority of states would not be able to meet the Dec. 31, 2009 deadline to comply with the law.

In a statement released today, DHS reported that 46 of 56 states and territories have informed the agency that they will not be able to meet the Dec. 31 REAL ID material compliance deadline. To read the full DHS statement, click here.

"In order to ensure that the millions of Americans traveling this holiday season are not disrupted, DHS is extending the Dec. 31 REAL ID material compliance deadline. The May 10, 2011, deadline for full compliance remains in effect, and the Department will continue to work closely with states to meet this deadline," DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said in a statement.

President Obama has indicated his desire to modify the REAL ID Act through new legislation, called the PASS ID Act, but that proposal has not yet been passed into law.