Bill seeks to include Real ID in Puerto Rico Traffic Act
SAN JUAN — The Puerto Rico Senate began holding public hearings Tuesday over a bill to amend the island’s Road Traffic Act and adapt it with provisions of the Real ID Act of 2005, which will be enacted stateside in October.
Sen. Miguel Laureano will oversee the hearings for S.B. 816, which also proposes that identity protection safeguards equal to driver’s licenses issued by the Department of Homeland be incorporated into all official identification cards.
“It is a priority that citizens know and understand the importance and advantages of having the Real ID. We know of citizens who have faced problems in other states for lack of identification. Therefore, it is important for DTOP [Spanish initials for the Public Works & Transportation Department] to offer guidance prior to issuing the person a license or identification, as some citizens decline precisely because they do not know the benefits,” the legislator said in a statement.
He recalled that nearly four years after the terrorist attacks in 2001 Congress approved the Real ID Act of 2005 with the objective of helping fight terrorism and establish national standards to obtain a driver’s license and ID cards.
According to Homeland Security, the extended term to obtain a Real ID is Oct. 17. Failure to carry it could limit a person’s access to military buildings and bases and could hinder travel abroad.
Even though DTOP already issues the Real ID, only 62,800 new or renewed driver’s licenses and 7,014 identification cards have been issued. Roughly two million people are part of the DTOP system.
“Residents are unaware of the importance and the need to have the Real ID; many do not understand the reasons and also are unaware that there is an additional charge of $15. At the time of renewal, users should be informed about the limitations they will have if they do not have the Real ID. Caveats must be in writing at the time of renewal,” the senator said.
He also warned that the proximity of the deadline to obtain the Real ID could cause congestion at the Drivers Service Centers (Cescos by its Spanish acronym), so a general educational campaign should be started on the Real ID, who may obtain it, and its the advantages and disadvantages.
“To give an example, the disadvantage of not having the new identification is that the driver’s license will read “Not for Real ID Purposes” in red; you will not be able to use your driver’s license for domestic travel inside and outside the United States and its territories; you will not be part of the interconnected national database, among others,” he explained.
The Justice Department, DTOP and the Ports Authority participated in the first hearing.