[JURIST] The US Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] Thursday agreed to extend [DHS press release; rulemaking notice] by 18 months the compliance timeline for the REAL ID Act [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] until December 31, 2009. In addition to the extension of the deadline imposed on states, DHS will allow states to use as much as 20 percent of the money allocated by the agency to ensure compliance. The proposed changes follow resistance by state and federal lawmakers [JURIST report], who questioned the feasibility of implementing uniform driver's license standards under the act before the original May 2008 deadline, and aim at assuaging concerns [JURIST report] over the cost of the new regulations.
The REAL ID Act, initially drafted after the Sept 11 attacks and designed to discourage illegal immigration, attempts to make it more difficult for terrorists to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs by mandating that states require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs. The law is also meant to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to board aircraft or enter federal government buildings. After controversy and strenuous opposition from civil libertarians [FindLaw commentary] it finally passed in 2005 as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations defense spending bill. AP has more.