A hand holds a passport and other documents in front of an airplane
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Republicans Are Trying To Blame Joe Biden for an Act Their Party Passed in 2005

Republicans are currently fearmongering and spreading conspiracy theories about the Real ID Act, claiming it is some kind of sneaky attempt from President Joe Biden to control them, even though their own party passed the act almost 20 years ago.

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After years of delays, a new deadline was set for the Real ID Act to go into effect. Starting May 7, 2025, American citizens will need a Real ID if they wish to fly domestically and enter federal buildings or nuclear power plants. Implementation of the act has been delayed due to multiple deadline extensions for states to become Real ID compliant. As of 2024, all states and territories are officially compliant, allowing a date to be set for the Real ID requirement for flying.

A Real ID is essentially a more secure form of a driver’s license or identification card. Those applying for REAL IDs are required to provide additional documents for proof of identity than if they were obtaining a driver’s license or ID card. The cards look very similar to typical IDs but may include a barcode and star to make it harder to counterfeit. Since numerous states have been offering Real IDs for years, many residents already have them, and some may not even realize it. You can tell the difference because a non-Real ID will include text reading, “Not for federal purposes.” So long as one has multiple forms of identification, there should be no issue in securing a Real ID.

For some reason, though, the new deadline has led to a wave of conservative conspiracy theories.

Why are conservatives losing it over Real IDs?

As mentioned above, the Real ID Act was passed years ago. Specifically, it was passed in 2005 under Republican President George W. Bush in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack. The main purpose is to construct national standards for IDs used for flying and federal purposes. Initially, there were concerns about privacy, as a misconception arose that a federal database of driver’s licenses would be compiled. However, each state has been permitted to issue its own unique licenses and maintain its own records as before. Even the most reluctant states eventually became Real ID-compliant as fears were slowly dismissed.

Chaos broke out on social media recently, though, due to Republicans reacting to the Real ID Act while having no clue what it actually is. Upon learning of the new deadline, many Republicans jumped to the conclusion that the Real ID Act is a brand new act signed into law under President Joe Biden. Real ID soon began trending on X as conservatives flooded the platform with false information about the act. Some users framed the 20-year-old act as “breaking news,” falsely warning users that the federal ID program will “fundamentally” change how Americans fly and that it posed critical privacy and surveillance concerns. Others began to rewrite history by insisting Biden passed the law with malicious intentions.

One of the most prominent conspiracy theories is that Biden passed the Real ID Act to oppress Americans while allowing undocumented immigrants to forego the requirement. It’s actually quite interesting that the same party that has historically demanded voter ID laws is now going into hysterics over Real IDs. It’s also difficult to comprehend how all these users randomly jumped to the conclusion that undocumented immigrants are being given a pass on the Real ID requirements.

The whole situation is ridiculous, as some citizens have held Real IDs for years with no adverse consequences. Contrary to the claims that the act is being used to “enslave” Americans, citizens are not required to carry a Real ID; it’s only a necessity for flying or federal purposes. On top of that, rumors of the Act being utilized to surveil citizens have been largely debunked. Lastly, the claim that undocumented immigrants are exempt from the Real ID Act is a complete lie formed by conservatives.

In fact, undocumented immigrants are among one of the only groups who actually will be negatively impacted by the Real ID Act. It’s unclear what options will be available to undocumented immigrants, who are currently being urged to check their state’s individual requirements for a Real ID and to consult with immigration attorneys. Since obtaining a Real ID requires proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful residency status, undocumented immigrants will find their options severely limited when the Real ID Act goes into effect. Although they will still be eligible for non-compliant IDs, including regular driver’s licenses in some states, there are concerns that such IDs will start being used to make assumptions about one’s legal status.

Republicans quite clearly know nothing about the Real ID Act, including who passed it, when it was passed, and what it actually means for U.S. citizens and residents. They simply saw a few new words and jumped at the opportunity to use them to spread their conspiracy theories and hatred for undocumented immigrants.

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.