TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Most states have already implemented the Real ID law, which was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2005. But Oklahoma remains among the four states that have not yet achieved full compliance.
The Real ID law was first introduced and recommended by the 9/11 Commission to inhibit terrorists' ability to evade detection by using fake IDs, so states and the federal government have begun processing different IDs with with more accuracy and reliability. Oklahoma has already received multiple deadline extensions to become compliant with Real ID. The current extension with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is set to expire in October, but Oklahoma Department of Public Safety officials have said the extension will continue until October 2020.
"That's the governor's office that submits the request for an extension," said Sarah Stewart, DPS director of media operations. "We work with them on that and we're working to get a request for that extension in. We don't really have any reason to doubt they would grant it. We've been in constant contact with Homeland Security, we've been meeting all the benchmarks, and they know we're diligently working on getting the new system into place."
While Stewart said the new deadline will likely be October 2020, she said DPS's plan is to begin issuing Real IDs on April 30, 2020. Once the state begins issuing the IDs, Oklahomans will need to obtain them if they want to board a regulated commercial aircraft, enter a nuclear power plant, or access other federal facilities.
"They're going to have to have a new ID, because the ones the state has don't have the security features built into it that's needed," said Cherokee County Tag Agent Brenda Brooks. "That's why it's not in compliance."
Those with passports or permanent residency cards can can still get through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, and until the new identification system goes into effect, they can use their state-issued IDs.
"If you don't have plans to fly or got to any federal facilities, you don't have to run out and get one right away," said Stewart. "And you don't ever have to get one if you don't want to. It's optional. You can get a non-compliant driver's license or identification card."
Oklahomans who want a Real ID will need a few more documents, in addition to the usual proof of Social Security and birth certificate. One new requirement will be two proofs of residency, such as a lease agreement, a mortgage deed, or a bill.
"Then you have to have proof of every name change," said Stewart. "So like women who have possibly been married several times and changed their names, you'll have to bring in proof of every single name change."
The Real ID law applies only to whether state-issued IDs are compliant. But the Cherokee Nation photo ID is not state-issued, according to tribe's website, so tribal IDs are accepted as federally-recognized IDs for flying purposes. The website also states the Cherokee Nation IDs maybe accepted at some federal facilities, but not at others.
The new law change will "probably" impact the local Tag Agency as well, said Brooks.
"I'd say it probably will," she said. "We've got to do so much online training, and then we have to go to a class before we're going to be able to even do this. And we haven't even gotten our schedules for that."
Oklahoma did not accept the Real ID law at the time of its signing; in fact, the Legislature passed a law prohibiting DPS from implementing the act or any provisions that would complete with the law. During the 2017 regular legislative session, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill to allow DPS to come into compliance.
Readers were asked on the Daily Press' Saturday Facebook Forum for their opinions on the new law. Some believe Oklahoma should become compliant with the federal law as quickly as possible, while others think the federal government shouldn't dictate the state's identification laws.
Whitty Tina wrote that she plans to get her passport, but: "Oklahoma needs to comply and stop dragging their feet, or better yet, stop changing the state license plate and use appropriated funds to comply with the federal government."
John Yeutter said he's prepared to travel, as he has his passport already, but he doesn't agree with the law: "I don't believe the federal government has the right to dictate to the states how their identification should be formatted. If our congressional representative [Markwayne Mullin] truly believed in getting rid of 'job-killing federal regulations,' he would be working to abolish the Real ID requirement, instead of creating federal regulations about robocalls."
Yeutter is among those who procured a passport card, as well as the passport itself. The cards are only accepted for re-entry into the U.S. at land border crossings, or seaports, from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean.
In a online poll, readers were asked what their situations would be should the state not receive a deadline extension for implementing the Real ID law. Out of the 40 respondents, 26 of them said they'll still be able to travel and enter federal facilities, because they have passports.
Five people said they hope the deadline will be extended, because they have plans to fly before April and don't have passport or tribal IDs. Seven respondents said they're not compliant, but it doesn't matter, because they have no plans to fly or visit a military base.
Two people said they were uncertain.