Precedents exist for requiring citizens to produce special ID for domestic travel; they include Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa and Russia (both Imperial and Soviet).
Over the Christmas season, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quietly announced that America was walking down that path. By 2016, all domestic air travel will require either a traditional passport or a federally-compliant ID card called “Real ID.” State driver’s licenses will no longer allow Americans access to domestic flights, as they do now. Real ID will constitute an internal passport. (The drop-date date is commonly reported as January.)
An internal passport refers to an identity document that people must produce to move from place to place within national borders. It allows a government to monitor the movement of its own people and to control that movement by granting or denying ID. In the past, governments have used internal passports to isolate ‘undesirables’, to regulate economic opportunities, to reap personal data, to intimidate and command obedience, and to segregate categories of people (like Jews) for political purposes. It allows a government to bind anyone it chooses to his or her place of birth.
The upcoming Real ID requirement targets only air travel. But that’s how it begins – with airports.
After people became numb to years of ID demands, questioning and searches at airports, those tactics spread to train stations and subways. Then highway check-points were established in areas that lay within 100 miles from an “external boundary,” including coasts. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents now have the authority to stop a traveller if they have “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation or other crime. Although the agents do not currently have authority to demand ID from American citizens, they often do so.
The ACLU has repeatedly cautioned that “[i]n practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people….These problems are compounded by…the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse. Thus, although the 100-mile border zone is not literally ‘Constitution free’, the U.S. government frequently acts like it is.”
Recently, highway checkpoints have occurred well outside the 100-mile “exemption” range, with agents demanding to see ID. They detain and threaten those who refuse the illegal demand:
The total control of movement always begins with airports. Real ID will be reality in the US by the end of the decade and, perhaps, long before. And it is not likely to be limited to air travel.