Thirteen years ago, principally in response to the 9/11 terror attacks, Congress passed the Read ID Act, which sets strict standards for driver’s licenses in every state.

The Garden State has been given until October 2019 by the federal Department of Homeland Security to comply with the Real ID Act, which will require drivers who want a Real ID license to produce a variety of documentation that verifies their identities.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission expects to officially role out the program sometime next spring or summer, but the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is expressing major privacy and civil rights concerns about the program.

According to Amol Sinha, the executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, the program creates a national identification card that will force people “to submit proof of Social Security number, date of birth, address, etc., to the federal government and the government will keep permanent copies in electronic databases of this sensitive information.”

He stressed these databases will be available “to law enforcement officials across the country, which we think jeopardizes our security and privacy.”

When it was pointed out the government already has this kind of information, Sinha acknowledged this is true, “but they don’t have copies of the most sensitive documents stored in one place with access for all law enforcement agencies.”

He added even if the feds do have a copy of your passport somewhere, right now “it’s not available to the local municipal police department immediately in a database.”

By the fall of 2020, Real ID driver’s licenses will be required in order to board an airplane or enter a federal building (although you’ll still be able to use your passport as well). But Sinha argued most individuals only need a driver’s license to drive locally, and they should have the option to get one without a lot of strict ID requirements.

“Significant numbers of people, especially marginalized folks, including folks who are homeless, or transgender or immigrants or people who were formally incarcerated, they may not be able to get that Real ID," he said.

He suggested what we really should do is “ensure that everybody who can drive has access to a license, regardless of their gender status or their immigration status, and the Real ID-compliant license may come later.”

He said instead of requiring six points of identification, which is currently required to get a New Jersey license, the identities of individuals could be checked “through a whole different system of identification, including utility bills and cell phone bills and that kind of thing.”

News of interest across New Jersey:

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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