The Real ID Act of 2005 – Privacy vs. Security and What it Means For Latinos

Neil_Vegoinre_PortraitThe morning of September 11th, 2001 is a morning many of us will never forget. The day that over 3000 innocent lives were taken, the day that struck fear, and anger into the hearts of millions of Americans. This singular act sparked two wars, dozens of bills by Congress, TSA regulations, and in many cases a change in our culture. Few will deny that America’s national security is important, and that it has improved markedly since 2001. For instance, try and take a 5 oz. tube of toothpaste on your carry-on and you will find out how stringent the TSA rules have become, as they casually toss half your luggage in the trash. One law in particular that stemmed from 9/11 is the Real ID act of 2005.

If you currently drive a vehicle in the United States, or have an identification card, you must have a Real ID Compliant card as soon as 2014. In fact anyone born After December 1st, 1964 must be compliant by December 2014, and those born before that date by December 2017. But what does Real ID “Compliant” mean for Latinos? Essentially, the Act requires all 50 states to comply with these requirements: contribute to a database with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with cardholder’s information, require specific documentation, such as a social security number or foreign passport to issue a card, and make digital images mandatory and sharable to all states and the department. Additionally, all state cards must show information in a standardized format: Full “legal” name, residential address, birth date, gender, card #, digital photo, signature, and a barcode.

The act is somewhat of a double edged sward in many regards to Latinos. On the one hand, the Act is an effective tactic for national security in regards to terrorism and fraud. Many European countries (over 100) have instituted some form of national identification in regards to national security. The act can also assist law enforcement in cases of kidnapping or homicide by using facial recognition and integrating it with the DHS database.

On the other hand, the stringent requirements imposed make an already difficult immigration process more complicated. This is especially true for students and temporary workers from abroad. Although the act allows for immigrant visas and temporary status to apply for a temporary license or ID, it has to go through the DHS for verification, and typically a valid passport is the only means of demonstrating lawful admittance. This may not be an issue for European immigrants, but the process for obtaining a passport and visa in South America may be more daunting for some. The law also does not provide for adequate financial assistance past 2009, although the secretary of DHS can do so at their discretion, many states must bear the cost of compliance, which takes resources away from other state programs. Also, in order to be “compliant” you must physically visit a “service center” and submit the documents. There are also mounting privacy concerns. Who is able to use the information? What legal protections do we have if our information is stolen? And in light of the many NSA programs uncovered by ex-employee Edward Snowden, can we really trust the DHS with our Biometric and location data?

If you decide not to comply with the Act, you will not be allowed on commercial flights within the United States, to drive a motor vehicle, to enter any federal building, or apply for security clearance. Essentially Real ID has its merits and its drawbacks, as a society and country we must continue to question how many of our civil liberties we are willing to give up in to preserve our national security? Regardless it is here, and now, and it is best for Latinos to be ready for it.

Neil Vegoinre is a Staff Writer for Latino Giant. Neil grew up in South Florida, but after graduating from Broward College with a degree in Mathematics, he moved to Orlando. Today, he is an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando studying Business and Marketing, and also works as a Managerial Accounting Tutor. In the future, Neil aspires to be an entrepreneur, and a force for good in his community, and to continue to be active in political thought and discourse.