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Faced with a mini-revolt among a handful of states, the Department of Homeland Security avoided a head-on confrontation and extended time to improve security procedures on drivers’ license identification under the REAL ID Act of 2005. The extension of time to all 50 states, whether they asked for it or not, is viewed as a victory by the rebellious states. The extension will avoid hassles, and pat-down searches, for many Americans trying to board airplanes using drivers’ licenses as the summer vacation season approaches. Six states have steadfastly refused to go along with some of the REAL ID mandates, which require Americans to carry a federally approved ID card, or passport, to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, get into federal buildings or collect social security. States were required to adopt licensing systems that meet federal standards by May 11, 2008, which include new security layers to prevent forgery and include verification of birth certificates, social security numbers and immigration status. Among the recalcitrant states were Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma and Washington but by April 2 Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, indicated all states were technically in compliance, despite some states passage of laws rejecting REAL ID requirements. DHS spokeswoman Veronica Valdez said April 7, “We have reached agreements to make sure all states are on their way to making identification more secure and REAL ID Act compliant.” She declined any further comment. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has been among the leaders of the pack of objecting states. He said in March that “DHS blinked” when his state was got an extension from Chertoff despite insisting Montana would never comply and a state law that bars compliance. Montana’s Attorney General Mike McGrath sent a letter to DHS in March pointing out the steps the state has taken to improve license security and catch fraudulent documents. He asked that DHS not punish the state because the legislature has not been in session since its unanimous vote in 2007 to forbid implementation of REAL ID. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was equally defiant about the REAL ID program but got the extension anyway. The state passed an anti-REAL ID measure in 2007 and has not backed down. “At the end of the day, I’m duty-bound to uphold the laws of our state, which right now say we can’t comply with REAL ID,” he told reporters on the eve of the DHS extension. “That being said, I do fall into the camp that believes REAL ID is poor public policy for any number of reasons and we have some real questions as to whether the benefits in terms of security outweigh the costs in terms of time and money,” he said. Maine was the last state to get the extension on April 2, according to the DHS. The state asked that the federal government not penalize state residents for the state’s failure to comply under a 2007 law that states main would refuse to implement the act to protest treatment of the states by federal authorities. Maine Governor John Baldacci promised to seek legislation to halt Maine’s current practice of issuing licenses to people not lawfully in the U.S. and to begin retaining photographs of people who apply for state identification, even if no ID is issued, according to DHS. Baldacci also promised to submit legislation that would have Maine use the federal alien verification system to verify non-citizen documents and seek state appropriations to pay for the changes. The promises were good enough to win a DHS approval for the extension.

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