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Niagara County: Jastrzemski, Wydysh say residents should consider passports to fly

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Mon, Feb 10th 2020 04:15 pm

Deadline for REAL ID is Oct. 1

Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski and Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Rebecca Wydysh today said Niagara County residents should strongly consider getting passports rather than rely on New York state driver’s licenses to meet the TSA requirements for REAL ID for all domestic flights that takes effect on Oct. 1. The new rules require every traveler 18 years of age an older to have at minimum a REAL-ID-compliant driver’s license to fly within the U.S.

“As we have now seen, the federal government does not trust documentation coming out of New York state because of Gov. Cuomo’s failed Greenlight legislation that gave illegal immigrants driver’s licenses,” Jastrzemski said. “The governor did not consult Homeland Security and did not consult with county clerks who have to implement this law, and now we are all dealing with the consequences.”

Jastrzemski explained that, part of the Greenlight legislation explicitly prohibits federal authorities from accessing the Department of Motor Vehicles database, which is a major obstacle in enforcing immigration policy and verifying documents.

“Because of state government’s hostile action, federal authorities have now banned New Yorkers from participating in Trusted Traveler Programs like Nexus and Global Entry. I am very concerned that Homeland Security will next say that New York’s REAL ID and enhanced driver’s license are not considered compliant for domestic flights when the new rules take effect on Oct. 1.”

Wydysh, whose district includes Niagara Falls International Airport and the Lewiston Queenston Bridge, said travelers may not want to wait and take a chance that they could be denied boarding a domestic flight.

“Regardless of how you feel about allowing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, the state’s overreach in banning federal authorities from the DMV database is going to negatively impact our community, particularly cross-border traffic,” she said. “I do not want to see people who are booking flights and planning vacations left unable to fly, because TSA decides it won’t accept their New York-issued REAL ID or enhanced driver’s license.”

Jastrzemski and Wydysh said the safest path forward is for Niagara County residents to obtain a passport.

“A passport will cover domestic flights, trips to Canada and any other international travel so you will not have to worry about any potential identification issues” Wydysh said. “This may be a case of better to be safe than sorry.”

“You can obtain a passport from our office fairly quickly with your original birth certificate with the raised seal and your current driver’s license,” Jastrzemski said. “While it costs a little more than the New York state REAL ID and enhanced licenses, it is good for 10 years and will meet every one of your travel needs.”

Jastrzemski said information on obtaining a passport is available at www.niagaracounty.com/departments/County-Clerk.

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