On Jan. 15, 2013, New Mexicans may find that their drivers licenses are no longer acceptable identification as they file through airport security or when seeking entry into federal buildings such as New Mexico’s national labs. That’s when the Real ID Act of 2005, a law Congress passed in response to the recommendations of the federal 9/11 Commission, goes into effect. KOAT reported on the significance of this change in New Mexico…
“Right now New Mexico doesn’t meet the requirements of the Real ID Act because the state issues drivers licenses to illegal immigrants… and if that doesn’t change, you may soon need another form of ID to get on a plane.”
That could mean that New Mexicans will need either a passport or a military issued ID to travel, if the Department of Homeland Security follows through with its scheduled Jan. 15 deadline for compliance by states.
According to a 2008 report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service,
“In general, while REAL ID does not directly impose federal standards with respect to states’ issuance of drivers’ licenses and personal identification cards, states nevertheless appear compelled to adopt such standards and modify any conflicting laws or regulations to continue to have such documents recognized by federal agencies for official purposes.”
Since enactment of Real ID, full implementation has been delayed in part due to inaction or push-back from some states resisting the tightened federal standards for drivers licenses and state ID’s.
“On March 4, 2011, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano extended by 20 months (to January 15, 2013) the May 10, 2011 deadline for states to be in full compliance with the Real ID,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In the KOAT report, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said, “We expect DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to make similar accommodations again.”
Meanwhile, as reported by KRQE in the video above, Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, is not counting on another extension of the deadline.
The Governor wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Oct. 10 seeking confirmation of statements by DHS that no further grace periods will be granted to exempt states from the Jan. 15 deadline and seeking guidance as to how enforcement of Real ID would impact New Mexico – one of only two states that grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.
“I will once again be asking our legislature to bring our driver’s license laws into full compliance during our upcoming legislative session,” Martinez wrote.
In the 2012 legislative session, the Governor was unsuccessful in passing a repeal of the New Mexico law that grants drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Notwithstanding, Martinez has recently affirmed her commitment to try again next session.
“Washington and New Mexico are now the only states that grant driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally. Utah grants illegal immigrants licenses only to drive only and not for ID,” reported the Seattle Times on Sept. 12, 2012.
(Washington State does not require immigrants to prove that they are lawfully present before granting licenses.)
A Heritage Foundation report indicates that a majority of states (26) are committed to Real ID compliance:
“According to DHS, as of February 2012, 21 states and territories had committed to meet the 18 REAL ID material compliance benchmarks by January 15, 2013. DHS also indicated that an additional five states had committed to achieving the 18 benchmarks, but do not believe they would be able to do so by January 15, 2013.”