Senator Mazie Hirono sent a letter Wednesday to Lee Francis Cissna, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Chad Wolf, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary at the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, and urged them to take immediate action following recent reports of citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, being denied access to REAL ID Act-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards.

The REAL ID Act Modification for Freely Associated States Act, which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate and was supported by Senator Hirono, was signed into law in December. The bill removes existing barriers that limit FAS citizens from accessing long-term, REAL ID Act-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. The REAL ID Act establishes national standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting noncompliant IDs for official purposes. Without access to REAL ID Act-compliant IDs, FAS citizens face challenges maintaining employment and accessing critical services. 

However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidance to implement the 2018 law relies on regulations issued before the law was passed. These regulations require an unexpired visa or Employment Authorization Document as evidence of identity to obtain a REAL ID Act-compliant ID.

“These challenges that FAS citizens face in accessing REAL ID Act-compliant IDs create hardships not only for FAS citizens, but also for the many U.S. employers who rely on FAS workers,”Senator Hirono stated in her letter. She further wrote that, “given the urgency of the situation, I ask that you immediately expedite processing of EAD applications from FAS citizens on a categorical basis until October 2020, when all states are expected to complete implementation of the REAL ID Act. I also ask that you continue working with my office to develop a longer-term solution to this issue.”

A full copy of Senator Hirono’s letter is available here.