With REAL ID Changes For Northwest States, What Happens To DACA Recipients?

REAL ID Airport Sign
The TSA is warning travelers to prepare for the new REAL ID requirements. CREDIT: CORY DOCTOROW/FLICKR

Did you travel through an airport during the holidays? If so, chances are you saw these REAL ID signs at the airport warning travelers about updated ID requirements. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho have all received extensions allowing people with U.S. identification documents to continue traveling beyond the January deadline. But where does that leave the Northwest’s 32,000 DACA recipients when it comes to domestic flights?  

REAL ID is a federal security measure passed in 2005 after recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The goal is to establish minimum security standards for state-issued IDs like driver’s licenses. Currently 27 states are in compliance, while others like Washington and Oregon have extensions until Oct. 10, 2018.

DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – is the order from former President Obama that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to legally work here with a temporary employment permit. In October, President Trump rescinded Obama’s executive order. That means up to 900,000 DACA recipients will lose their protected status if Congress doesn’t implement any changes before the March 2018 deadline.

When it comes to REAL ID policies colliding with DACA updates, the lines are blurry.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website, immigrants with temporary protected status like DACA can update their driver’s licenses to become REAL ID compliant. To clarify, I reached out to DHS spokeswoman Anna Franko.

In an email Franko said: “The REAL ID Act allows states to issue temporary (i.e., limited-term), REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards to applicants who provide valid, documentary evidence that they have ‘approved deferred action status.’ ”

REAL IDs for DACA recipients would then be marked with the expiration date of their employment authorization cards.

Jose is with a community group in Washington state. He’s also a DACA recipient. He has a Washington driver’s license and says he’ll do all of his 2018 travel before the October deadline. He knows he can use his Mexican passport to fly, but he’s worried that may lead to more stops at the airport. (Editor’s note: We’re not using Jose’s last name due to his immigration status, at his request.)

For now, DACA recipients in the Northwest can use their regular driver’s licenses for domestic flights.

To see if your state is compliant and how to fly, check out this map.

REAL ID Compliance Map


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