Why the Controversy Over REAL ID?

REAL ID draws controversy across the political spectrum

St. Paul, MN – An ongoing debate is ensuing over the passing and implementation of REAL ID at the Minnesota State Legislature. The federal government passed the REAL ID act in 2005 to strengthen airline travel security and tighten access to federal buildings.  As a result, the federal government is requiring states to upgrade their state driver’s licenses so they can comply with the stricter standards.

Conservatives and liberals are split on REAL ID implementation within their own parties, and outside groups present strong arguments and stances on the issue as well. There are several individual aspects within the REAL ID implementation proposal that different groups take issue with:


The Department of Homeland Security is requiring states to have their driver’s licenses comply with REAL ID standards by 2020, claiming licenses that do not comply will restrict citizens from several activities, including passing through airport security and gaining entry to military bases.

One of the most vocal opponents against REAL ID in Minnesota is Twila Brase, President of the Citizen’s Council for Health Freedom (CCHF). She questions whether REAL ID proponents are telling the truth. “The Department of Homeland Security is threatening Americans and saying they will not be able to fly without the REAL ID card,” Brase said.

In an official federal register document laying out DHS’ comments on the regulation, it states:

“DHS notes that individuals without a REAL ID-compliant document will still be able to enter Federal facilities and board commercial aircraft, and these rules cannot determine what alternative documents are acceptable for those purposes.”

However, TSA documents state if Minnesota is not compliant with REAL ID standards, that beginning January 22, 2018, “you may continue to use your state-issued driver’s license or ID for domestic air travel only if your state has been granted an extension to the compliance deadline by DHS.” If Minnesota has not been granted an extension by DHS, “you may not use your state-issued driver’s license or ID for domestic air travel.” TSA also states, “Beginning October 1, 2020, you may not use your state-issued driver’s license or ID for domestic air travel.”

CCHF Legislative Specialist Matt Flanders says DHS has given non-compliant states five other “deadlines” that have come and gone without consequences, “they keep extending the deadline because they can’t or won’t actually enforce it.”

TSA provides a list of other acceptable identification documents, which can be located here.

Constitutional Overreach

Brase also claims, “federal control over driver’s licenses and ID cards is a violation of states’ rights and individual rights’ under the 10th Amendment.”  

Brase believes by bowing to DHS Minnesota is opening itself up to further federal control.

In an official federal register document it states, “DHS will continue to consider additional ways in which a REAL ID license can or should be used and will implement any changes to the definition of ‘official purpose’ or determinations regarding additional uses for REAL ID.” It also states DHS will not seek approval for these changes, reading, “DHS does not agree that it must seek the approval of Congress as a prerequisite to changing the definition in the future.”

However, not everyone agrees with this constitutional interpretation.

Peter Nelson with the Center of the American Experiment counters this argument in an article titled “Don’t Fear REAL ID” which states, “While the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause has long been abused to justify federal overreach—starting with the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval of federal regulation of wheat production in Wickard v. Filburn in 1942—the regulation of air travel between the states is a clear example of the interstate commerce that the federal government is empowered to regulate under the Constitution,” Nelson wrote.

Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

REAL ID is also causing controversy regarding illegal immigration. As Alpha News reported, the Minnesota Senate’s version of REAL ID, authored by Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) passed the Senate Committee on Transportation Finance and Policy Tuesday. The Senate version of the bill omits line 6.25 which states a person can only obtain a REAL ID if they have lawful status.

The House version of the bill still contains line 6.25, which has several different groups speaking out. As Alpha News reported The MN Catholic Conference – the official lobbying group for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, sent a letter urging lawmakers to remove language found in section 6.25, stating, “Undocumented immigrants who live in our communities are already driving on our streets. Why not ensure that they are doing so in a safe and legal manner?”

Representative Eric Lucero disagreed, telling Alpha News, “A driver’s license is a gateway document which opens the door for access to additional privileges and legitimizes illegal behavior. I oppose drivers licenses for illegal immigrants because I support the rule-of-law.”


An additional fear of REAL ID regards the violation of privacy through the creation of a federal database with the personal information of every American using the REAL ID card.

CCHF explains on their website “The law is designed to centralize American ID documents into a single distributed database — a ‘hub’ with certain identifiable information in the motor vehicle database from all Americans that must under the federal law be accessible to all 50 state agencies.”

The aforementioned Center of the American Experiment article disputes privacy concerns, explaining that “the REAL ID legislation moving through the Minnesota House and the Senate creates two tracks of driver’s licenses—one that complies with REAL ID and one that does not. Thus, anyone with privacy concerns can opt out.”

Brase and the CCHF argue that because DHS has claimed it can continue to expand the “official purposes” of REAL ID, that the uses for the non-compliant ID’s will be continuously whittled down until it becomes nearly impossible for citizens not to have the compliant ID.

This is a small glimpse into the several issues and viewpoints surrounding REAL ID. Links to the various arguments can be found throughout the article – subscribe to Alpha News for continuous coverage of the REAL ID bills making their way through the State Legislature and the issues that arise.


Julia Erynn