When last we checked in on the status of DHS threats to harass residents of states and territories that haven’t been sufficiently “compliant” with the REAL-ID Act of 2005, the focus was on the territory of American Samoa.
The REAL-ID Act applies to the District of Columbia and five US territories as well as to the fifty US states. American Samoa is the most distant from the US mainland and one of the smallest in population of these US territories, and is the only place subject to the REAL-ID Act whose native-born residents are not US citizens. There are only two scheduled airline flights a week between American Samoa and any other US state or territory.
Perhaps for these reasons, the DHS in its
infinite wisdom unreviewable discretion chose to make American Samoa the test of its threats to “enforce” the REAL-ID Act.
Every other state or territory was either certified as sufficiently compliant with the REAL-ID Act (even though few of them are) or given an extension of time to show a more compliant attitude. But the DHS invoked its REAL-ID “nuclear option” on American Samoa, announcing that effective February 5, 2018, “a driver’s license or ID issued by American Samoa (AS) will no longer be an acceptable document to board a federally-regulated commercial aircraft.” Air travelers showing ID cards issued by the government of American Samoa are subject to additional “ID verification” and/or “screening” (searches).
So how has the DHS effort to make an example out of American Samoa fared? And what can other states and territories learn from this example?
Basically, (1) the sky didn’t fall, and (2) the DHS blinked (again). The message to other states is that they shouldn’t be panicked into “compliance” by empty DHS threats.