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REAL ID Act enforcement extension granted to Territory

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA  — The US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) has granted an extension to American Samoa to comply with the federal REAL ID Act until Oct. 10, 2019, according to USDHS public online records, as of Sept. 5.

It says that American Samoa has an extension for REAL ID enforcement, allowing federal agencies to accept driver's licenses and identification cards from American Samoa at federal facilities, nuclear power plants and federally regulated commercial aircraft.

Enacted in 2005, the REAL ID Act establishes a national set of standards for state driver’s licenses and identification cards that are accepted by the federal government for official purposes.

However, American Samoa has been unable to meet those stringent standards, prompting the US Department of Homeland Security to issue a Jan. 19, 2018 national statement that effective Feb. 5 this year, residents of American Samoa would no longer be able to use territory-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards to fly domestically or enter federal buildings and military installations.

American Samoa’s extension to comply with the federal REAL ID Act, followed an updated request by the Lolo Administration to USDHS, while Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga also sent to the Fono last month, the legislation — the  American Samoa REAL ID Act — that would put the territory in compliance with the federal law.

The bill proposes major changes to current law for issuing driver’s licenses, and a new provision is being proposed that would allow a “driving privilege card” to be issued. The proposal also transfers issuance of American Samoa identification cards from the Office of Vital Statistics to DPS office of motor vehicle, through the Police Commissioner. (See Samoa News edition Aug. 29th for details.)

Also being proposed by the governor is adding a “driving privilege card” to current provisions of the law, when it comes to suspension or revocation of driver’s license for conviction while driving under the influence, reckless driving and careless driving.

Current provision of the law, that remain in place — and something of interest — states that if the “court finds after hearing that a person has demonstrated habitual substance abuse which indicates he cannot safely drive a motor vehicle, the court may permanently revoke his license.”

A new provision of the law, details duty of the Police Commissioner, when it comes to accepting evidence of proof of an applicant and shortage of these documents.

According to the provision, which Samoa News understands is required under the federal REAL ID Act, the Police Commissioner, shall make rules pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, for acceptable documentation of an applicant’s identity, social security number, proof of evidence of lawful status and other proof or documents required under this chapter.

Additionally, establish procedures for storage and maintenance of applicant information provided.

According to the legislation, all driver’s licenses issued prior to implementing this Act, which is effective Jan. 1, 2019, would remain valid until the expiration date on the license or until one-year after the implementation of this Act.

No firmed up dates as to when the Fono will hold hearings on this measure.