After menacing states across the country this fall, the Department of Homeland Security has once again caved on threats to enforce REAL ID by denying Americans their right to travel.
This afternoon, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson put out a press release backtracking on agency claims that the Transportation Security Administration would turn away air travelers from states that don't comply with the U.S. national ID law in 2016.
The new deadline, according to Secretary Johnson's statement, is January 22, 2018. That's sure not 2016. That's more than two years away.
The date is significant for more than just proving the Department of Homeland Security's bluff. January 22, 2018 is more than a year into the next presidential administration. Secretary Johnson will be gone. The new president, whoever he or she is, will have a Homeland Security Secretary whose underlings will probably have driven the issue too hard for DHS and Congress to tolerate. And the 2018 REAL ID deadline will get pushed back again, by that group of federal bureaucrats.
It's why I've said time and time again that REAL ID deadlines aren't real.
Secretary Johnson's press release breaks some new and interesting ground. Starting on October 1, 2020, it says, "every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel."
The claim is not true. If Congress has still failed to repeal the law, DHS will once again cave on this deadline. But it makes clear where the REAL ID Act takes us. Every American is supposed to carry a national ID card. With luck and a little bit of advocacy by state leaders like Neal Kurk (R-NH) and Warren Limmer (R-MN), that will never happen.