REAL ID Office Opens at Airport, Furthers ID Debate

Miles Christopher, staff writer

Eligible students can now apply for a REAL ID at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as of Tuesday. A REAL ID will be needed to board flights and enter federal buildings beginning October 1, 2020.

The national rollout of REAL IDs began in 2013, based on a bill passed by Congress in 2005, and was meant to produce a minimum level of security around driver’s licenses, such that those licenses would be able to be used as sole identification for entering areas of higher security, like domestic aircraft or federal facilities. Minnesota was slower in becoming compliant to the rollout, which was spearheaded by the United States Department of Homeland Security, and only began issuing REAL ID licenses in 2018 after several extensions. This change does not pertain to undocumented Americans, as the REAL ID bill had no language pertaining to them. However, the state government, in working to create Minnesota’s set of REAL ID laws such that it could be compliant with the national requirements, found itself starting another, much more complicated fight.

Many of the Democratic lawmakers wanted to use the REAL ID laws as a way to expand the ability of undocumented individuals to apply for and receive Minnesota driver’s licenses. The licenses would be non-compliant with REAL ID requirements, but would still be usable within Minnesota for most purposes. The hope is that allowing everyone to receive licenses would increase the overall safety and accountability of driving in Minnesota, as well as allowing all drivers to purchase auto insurance. Of course, that move has created pushback from the Republican lawmakers in Minnesota, who argue strongly against the law, and even attempted to place a law banning any undocumented individual from receiving a license in a budget proposal, which was not successfully passed.

The “Driver’s Licenses for All” bill, as it is known to most, successfully passed the Minnesota House in April of 2019, but little news of it has continued much further, with no companion bill in the Senate, which makes it, at this point, unlikely to be enacted into law any time in the immediate future. Immigrants’ rights groups are continuing to fight for it, however, as well as a host of other measures that will hopefully allow undocumented individuals to continue to work and prosper in Minnesota. Minneapolis already holds the status of “sanctuary city,” through ordinances that allow for non-compliance with ICE, and there are also continued efforts to push Minnesota to expand its own non-compliance, in the hopes of allowing it to become a sanctuary state.