ID headaches on the horizon?

New Id card stand­ards could leave River Wards res­id­ents and bey­ond in a bind.

Rep. John Taylor talks about the Real ID Act and prob­lems im­ple­ment­ing it in Phil­adelphia at a Brides­burg Com­munity Ac­tion Al­li­ance meet­ing while BCAA mem­ber Jen­nifer Al­len takes notes on Wed. Jan. 18. CHRIS­TOPER SEAMANS / STAR PHOTO

Plan­ning  a trip to a mil­it­ary base to cel­eb­rate your child’s gradu­ation from train­ing?  Do you have busi­ness to con­duct at a fed­er­al build­ing or oth­er fed­er­al fa­cil­ity?

In a few months, your driver’s li­cense might not be good enough to get you through the gate.

And in a year, it may no longer be good enough to get you on an air­plane.

Dis­agree­ments between Har­ris­burg and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment over state-is­sued iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards have left the state’s res­id­ents, in­clud­ing those in the River Wards, vul­ner­able to in­con­veni­ence.

At the heart of the prob­lem is the Real ID Act.  

In the af­ter­math of the worst ter­ror­ist at­tack in the na­tion’s his­tory, the 9/11 Com­mis­sion re­com­men­ded im­ple­ment­ing new na­tion­wide stand­ards for state-is­sued forms of iden­ti­fic­a­tion, such as driver’s li­censes and non-driver’s iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards.  The goal was to make it more dif­fi­cult for for­eign-born ter­ror­ists to take ad­vant­age of asylum and im­mig­ra­tion laws to se­cure iden­ti­fic­a­tion that would give them ac­cess to fed­er­al fa­cil­it­ies and com­mer­cial air­craft.

Build­ing on those re­com­mend­a­tion, in 2005 the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment passed the Real ID Act, which in­cluded na­tion­al stand­ards for what in­form­a­tion would be stored on state-is­sued iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards, what doc­u­ments would be ne­ces­sary to ob­tain them, and how much of that in­form­a­tion would be shared through na­tion­wide data­bases.

The law was has not been without op­pos­i­tion, however.  

Some see the Real ID Act as the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment en­croach­ing on activ­it­ies that should be left to the states.  The very concept of a na­tion­al iden­ti­fic­a­tion card has long been con­tro­ver­sial, and to some, this law seems like a back­door at­tempt to im­ple­ment such a pro­gram.  

Pri­vacy ad­voc­ates worry about the in­creased amount of in­form­a­tion that will be stored and shared via data­bases, which could be hacked, leav­ing cit­izens vul­ner­able to iden­tity theft.

Oth­ers worry about the cost, in­con­veni­ence, and dis­rup­tion of is­su­ing new iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards to mil­lions of people.

In Pennsylvania, this op­pos­i­tion led to the pas­sage of Act 38 of 2012, a law that ex­pressly for­bids the gov­ernor and the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Trans­port­a­tion from par­ti­cip­at­ing in the Real ID pro­gram.

“Part of it was a con­cep­tu­al thing, mean­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would not be dic­tat­ing to us how we do our types of iden­ti­fic­a­tion, es­pe­cially for driver’s li­censes,” said Marc Collazzo, Brides­burg dis­trict of­fice man­ager for State Rep. John Taylor.  “There’s cer­tainly an is­sue re­gard­ing the in­form­a­tion that would be turned over to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment as a res­ult of get­ting a driver’s li­cense.”

That wasn’t a prob­lem un­til the first ma­jor dead­line came in­to sight.  

As of Jan. 30, non-com­pli­ant iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards were sup­posed to be in­suf­fi­cient to gain ac­cess to fed­er­al fa­cil­it­ies.  Gov. Tom Wolf, and the Pennsylvania Sen­ate and House all re­ques­ted an ex­ten­sion, which was gran­ted.  The new dead­line is June 6.

However, it would be im­possible for Pennsylvania to im­ple­ment all of the changes re­quired by the Real ID Act and is­sue new iden­ti­fic­a­tion cards by that dead­line.

“They’re prob­ably go­ing to need an­oth­er ex­ten­sion come June, and they think that will be gran­ted as well,” Collazzo said.  They’re go­ing to have to try to solve this prob­lem once and for all.”

If the state and fed­er­al gov­ern­ments can’t work out a solu­tion by the dead­line, then Pennsylvania res­id­ents will need some oth­er form of fed­er­al iden­ti­fic­a­tion to enter fed­er­al fa­cil­it­ies.  

And, if the dis­agree­ment con­tin­ues through to the be­gin­ning of next year, Pennsylvania res­id­ents will need an al­tern­ate meth­od of iden­ti­fic­a­tion to fly.

Al­though oth­er forms of iden­ti­fic­a­tion, like mil­it­ary ID cards, will be val­id, Collazzo said that pass­ports are the most real­ist­ic op­tion for most res­id­ents.

“If you’re go­ing to have to be able to get on fed­er­al fa­cil­it­ies –mil­it­ary bases, nuc­le­ar power plants— and most im­port­antly be able get on an air­plane, you’re go­ing to need a pass­port,” Collazzo said.  “In or­der to get a pass­port, you’re go­ing to need a val­id birth cer­ti­fic­ate, which we call in Pennsylvania the long-form birth cer­ti­fic­ate.  It’s got the seal on it.  It’s got both of your par­ents on it.”

What com­plic­ates the is­sue is that some res­id­ents don’t have cop­ies of their birth cer­ti­fic­ates, and oth­ers, es­pe­cially older Pennsylvani­ans, may not have an up-to-date cop­ies with all of the ne­ces­sary in­form­a­tion.

Al­though it’s pos­sible to ap­ply for a new birth cer­ti­fic­ate on­line, Rep. Taylor’s of­fice can help res­id­ents in his dis­trict with the pro­cess.

“They can come in here, we will help them com­plete all the ne­ces­sary pa­per­work and we will send the com­pleted forms and whatever fil­ing fees up to the de­part­ments dir­ectly, so that as quick as they can be turned around they can get them,” Collazzo said.  “Go­ing through our of­fice will usu­ally be a little quick­er, but also we can make sure that everything the state needs the con­stitu­ent has and has provided.”

The pro­cess is not in­stant, however.  It can take two to three weeks, and then ob­tain­ing a pass­port can take as long as six weeks.  Ac­cord­ing to Collazzo, it might not be a bad idea to plan ahead.

“While this is cer­tainly a press­ing is­sue, and cer­tainly it’s something we’re deal­ing with and want people to be aware of, the crunch isn’t here yet, be­cause ul­ti­mately, we don’t have a solu­tion,” he said.  “But we want people to know this, es­pe­cially if they need a birth cer­ti­fic­ate or they don’t think they have it, it’s al­ways good to get it now, be­cause it’s go­ing to come up.” 

Rep. John Taylor has two of­fices in the River Wards: 2901 E. Thompson St., 215- 425-0901;  and 4725-27 Rich­mond St., 215-744-2600.  All of­fices are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Ap­point­ments for birth cer­ti­fic­ate ap­plic­a­tions aren’t ne­ces­sary.  The ap­plic­a­tion fee is $20, but can be waived for cur­rent mil­it­ary per­son­nel and vet­er­ans.

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