The Costs and Benefits of Real ID
The Department of Homeland Security establishes 18 separate benchmarks that need to be met in order to be compliant with the Real ID act. To date, Maryland has met less than half of those benchmarks. The state is now grappling with the issue of meeting the remaining benchmarks — including verification of legal immigration status — despite the expense of doing so.
And the expenses are significant. First, the budgetary costs. Are these in the budget? How much are they estimated to run? DHS estimates the costs to average $78 per state — so you can assume it will cost Maryland at least $150 million.
There are also security costs. Implementation of Real ID will surely lead to a loss of security. Forming a national database that lists all the private information of license-holders, is like putting all your money in one box. Sophisticated (and maybe not-so-sophisticated) hackers will have a ready-made avenue for identity theft. In that respect, Real ID represents a tremendous security threat. Identity theft is already a widespread problem, and Real ID would make it worse.
Then there are costs to physical safety: Already, 30-50% of non-native applicants for Maryland drivers’ licenses are being rejected by the MVA, because of insufficient documentation of residence. The General Assembly is currently considering, independent of Real ID, six separate bills to require proof of federal immigration status for drivers. What will happen if Real ID is put into effect, and even more drivers are rejected?
It’s not likely that they will just quit their jobs and plop down on the couch at home. Rather, it’s likely that they will just drive anyway. This means that they become kind of a black market on the highway. They will avoid police, maybe decline insurance, and become kind of an underground, below-the-radar fleet. Unlicensed drivers mean it’s harder for police to track them down in the event of an accident, and it is harder to hold them accountable. The overall effect is reduced highway safety.
And what are the benefits of implementing Real ID? Maybe you could say that all the costs are worthwhile, if it reduces the threat of terrorism. Right. Somehow, I just can’t imagine Mohammed Atta calling up Osama bin Laden to report, “Uh, sorry chief, we have to scrap the whole operation because I couldn’t get driver’s license from the MVA.”