Transportation Security Administration agents check travelers identifications
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Transportation Security Administration agents check travelers identifications at a security check point area in Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago in November. Sometime in 2016 people from several states could have trouble getting on an airplane or into federal buildiings because of a post-Sept. 11 law that tightened requirements for state-issued identification. (Nam Y. Huh, Associated Pres File)

It is inexcusable that a number of states have stubbornly refused for more than a decade to comply with the Real ID Act passed by Congress in 2005.

The program's enforcement has been repeatedly delayed and now the federal government this month again pushed back the deadline for total compliance.

However, the Department of Homeland Security is at least making noises that it finally means business. It also announced that if states continue to ignore the rules, their residents will not be able to use their driver's license or state ID to board a plane beginning on Jan. 22, 2018.

Thirteen states, including New Mexico, do not meet the standards. Another 15 states have gotten extensions through October and can extend them even further.

Colorado, thankfully, has had Real ID-compliant licenses since 2011.

The law sought national standards for states' driver's licenses and identification cards in an effort to protect the country from terrorists and to be more aggressive about illegal immigration.

The law was prompted by the fact that the 9/11 hijackers, all of whom were foreigners, easily obtained driver's licenses and IDs from several states that allowed them to board four jetliners with no suspicion.

The Real ID Act mandates states verify that applicants are legal residents by confirmation from federal databases and original documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards.


Anti-counterfeit technology was also to be incorporated into the IDs. The law didn't require states to comply, but noncompliant IDs would not be accepted by federal agencies for air travel or access to federal buildings.

Those rules have yet to be fully enforced.

The law was almost immediately criticized. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated the price tag would be $11 billion over five years. Civil rights groups complained about alleged intrusions into people's privacy.

States, including Colorado, vowed not to comply. In 2007, Colorado House Resolution 1047 said no legislation or appropriation would be made to "further the passage of the Real ID Act in Colorado."

However, Colorado already had met many of the requirements and was able to begin issuing Real ID-compliant IDs by 2011.

Worries about privacy and fears of a "national ID" may be understandable, but they have little substance. In a modern society, a fraud-resistant ID hardly constitutes Big Brother breathing down our necks. Federal facilities and air travel need to be safe, and going through a security line is a far greater intrusion into privacy than a first-rate ID.

More than a decade has gone by since Congress passed Real ID. States such as Colorado have been able to comply with the measure. It's time everyone else did, too.

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