Jul 18 2018

California DMV lies about the REAL-ID Act

We’ve heard that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has posted scary new signs in DMV offices around the state misinforming motorists and holders of DMV-issued non-driver state ID cards about the Federal REAL-ID Act of 2005.

We assume that these public disinformation messages are similar in content to the false answers to frequently asked questions and other propaganda about REAL-ID on the DMV website.

We’ve been through all this before with similar false claims about the REAL-ID Act by the California DMV and the Federal Department of Homeland Security. But lest anyone be misled by seemingly authoritative statements from government agencies, here are some of the real facts about REAL-ID that are contradicted, denied, or ignored in DMV press releases.According to the DMV:

A valid California driver license or ID card can be used to board a domestic flight or enter secure federal facilities until October 1, 2020. After that date, a REAL ID card or other federally approved identification will be required.

There is absolutely no basis for the claim that any identification, approved or otherwise, “will be required” to board domestic US airline flights. This claim has been contradicted by the pleadings of TSA and DHS lawyers and the sworn testimony of TSA witnesses in every court case in which the issue has arisen. People fly without ID every day. Nothing in the REAL-ID Act or any other current or proposed law or regulation imposes or is scheduled to impose any requirement for air travelers to have, to carry, or to show ID.

As for the date when the treatment of California ID by military bases or Federal facilities other than airports or public transportation facilities might change, according to the DHS (which has been lying for years about the REAL-ID Act  but in this case is telling the truth):

California has an extension for REAL ID enforcement, allowing Federal agencies to accept driver’s licenses and identification cards from California at Federal facilities, nuclear power plants and federally regulated commercial aircraft until October 10, 2018.

There’s no basis in any law or regulation for this 2020 date given by the DMV. According to the REAL-ID Act and the implementing regulations promulgated by the DHS, grants of extensions of time to states comply with the REAL-ID Act are entirely at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. Did the DMV just make up this 2020 date? Or is there some secret agreement between the DHS and the DMV (which wouldn’t be binding on the DHS) for the DHS to grant additional extensions to California until October 2020?

The DMV also says that:

The California DMV began offering a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card as an option to customers on January 22, 2018.

This statement is clearly false. As we point out in our response to the DMV’s proposed REAL-ID regulations, “In order for California to comply with the REAL-ID Act, the DMV would have to upload information about all California drivers licenses and state ID cards to a nationally accessible database (“SPEXS”).”

The REAL-ID Act requires that, “To meet the requirements of this section, a State shall … Provide electronic access to all other States to information contained in the motor vehicle database of the State.” SPEXS is the only system with the potential to provide such access, once all states participate.

Responses to requests made under state public records laws show that the head of the California DMV has secretly been participating as an observer in meetings of the SPEXS governing body, and that California plans to upload state residents’ data to SPEXS. But California is not yet a participant in SPEXS and has not yet uploaded its residents’ data. As a result, no California license or ID currently complies with the REAL-ID Act.

Our takeaways from all this? The DMV is lying, and the sky isn’t falling. There’s no reason for residents of California (or any other state) to choose to apply for a “compliant” ID which isn’t compliant with Federal desires anyway, and which isn’t and won’t be required to fly.

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