Homeland security

Will Some Americans Need a Passport for Domestic Travel Next Year? Probably Not.

That we even fear it shows what a crummy policy Real I.D. is.


You may have read various and sundry stories in the news warning you that residents of some states whose drivers licenses are not up to federal "Real I.D." snuff will need a passport to get on a plane for even domestic travel next year, thanks to some weight-throwing by the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the federal law the states are rejecting.

Jim Harper at the Cato Institute, who has studied the issues intensively, thinks those fears fail to recognize some political realities and the tortured history of the undoubtedly dumb and awful Real I.D. laws:

DHS's latest story is that it might start to enforce REAL ID in 2016. It won't. 

Contrary to DHS claims, not one state is in compliance with the national ID law. Not one. Some years ago, the department created a whittled down "material compliance checklist," and it has freely given out deadline extensions to states that make enough of a show that they might go along with the federal government's plans.

The story now being spun is that TSA will categorically turn away people from a small group of remaining outlier states—if you can actually call New York small—when enforcement starts next year. I am 100% certain they will not. Every state will be out of compliance for the entire year, and the TSA will not implement a policy of refusing travelers from non-compliant states.

It's not that they theoretically couldn't do this; it's just that a reasonable understanding of the way the world works leads him to predict they will not actually try:

The reason for my confidence is a basic understanding of the politics involved. If TSA—perhaps the most despised U.S. federal agency in history—refuses people the right to travel because they do not carry a national ID, the uproar will be intense and lasting. The lawsuits that follow such an action will make their heads spin….

Harper calls for states to continue to ignore the Real I.D. law:

State officials who do similar calculations from their end realize that they don't have to follow federal mandates this time, or ever, and that their states will be worse off if they do. All this issue requires is a little sunlight.

Americans, you don't have to have a passport to fly domestically. American states, you don't have to obey federal national ID mandates. America, you don't need to comply with the REAL ID Act.

David Weigel wrote a feature for us in 2008 on the early travails of this bad law and state efforts to circumvent and/or ignore it. More recent history on the failed attempt to force it down state's throats.

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  1. Harper calls for states to continue to ignore the Real I.D. law:

    I wonder what other federal mandates the states should ignore . . . .

    1. All of them

  2. Owur Paypuss, deh won’d be en Ohhhrrdahhhhh…..

  3. If TSA?perhaps the most despised U.S. federal agency in history?refuses people the right to travel because they do not carry a national ID, the uproar will be intense and lasting.

    Citation needed.

    1. meow

      1. So do you have a permit to convey humor?
        “Funny papers please?”

        1. “See ya in the funnies”

    2. Given the number of states resisting Real ID, I think there is some reason for hope.

  4. “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

    Unless your papers are out of order. Then….?? fuck you that’s why I guess

  5. So, how does someone who has no passport or driver’s license get on a plane now?

    I’ve never been quite sure why knowing everyone’s name makes transportation more secure.

    1. The TSA don’t know people’s names. They know that the name on the card they are looking at matches the name on the boarding pass they are looking at.

      1. The sharper ones might also notice if the picture on the card resembles the person who handed it to them.

        You know what I mean.

        1. I was hunting for the clip from “Grosse Pointe Blank” shows up at the HS reunion and says, “It is I….[whatever the guy’s name is on the tag]” and the lady at the table says, “My – you really HAVE changed!”

          But I couldn’t find it.

          So think of how funny that scene would be, playing right here!



          1. insert “where the hitman who’s after John Cusack” right after “Grosse Point Blank” above and it makes a little more sense

      2. Several years ago I drove into Windsor and showed the Canadian customs guard my wife’s passport (I didn’t look at it–just showed it to her–I had grabbed the wrong passport case). She welcomed me to Canada.
        Returning 3 days later the American guard actually looked at the picture (my wife does not have a beard, among other differences) and actually made a small fuss. Astoundingly, it only took half an hour to get free. Although waiting in the ‘additional screening room’ where signs warn you you must ask for an escort to go the bathroom, and to keep your hands out of your pockets, was a little tense…

    2. By establishing who you are, you also establish who you are not.

  6. Much hand-wringing is going on in Arizona over this and most people are under the mistaken impression that the old licenses were fine and it’s the fault of the new ones. I have repeatedly told everyone who’d listen that the problem is at the national level, not the state level, and that there’s no way this will be enforced.

    My guess is the feds have done some sneaky propagandizing getting their side out to news outlets in order to try and place the blame on the states ahead of time.

  7. Internal passports…what a novel idea! But it’s already been done. In the old Soviet Union (may still be in effect in today’s Russia, for all I know).

    Nothing like Organic Democracy, is there?

  8. … refuses people the right to travel…

    There is no right to travel on/in someone ELSE’S airplane / train / car / boat / rickshaw / donkey / back….

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