December 23, 2015

DHS can still delay REAL ID implementation—if Gov, Legislature find agreement

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The Department of Homeland Security says that if the governor and State Legislature can agree on a fix state drivers licenses to comply with REAL ID, the federal government will grant a waiver for implementation.

New-Mexico-drivers-License-PolicyThat is from a news release from the four Democratic members of the congressional delegation and comes after months of confusion and political grandstanding on REAL ID compliance.

The four said in the release that they met with DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently. In it, Mayorkas pledged if an agreement can be found, a waiver can still happen.

Right now, New Mexico drivers licenses will not be suitable identification for federal facilities as of Jan. 10. The legislative session begins Jan. 19.

The licenses will still be available for identification on domestic flights. There will be a minimum of 120 days notice by the federal government for any change on that aspect of licenses.

The letter was from U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich as well as U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham. Steve Pearce, a Republican, has not generally been included on such joint efforts in the past.

The full letter, provided by Udall’s office, is available below.

The members sent a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez informing her of this.

“It is still possible for the State of New Mexico to request, and receive, an extension of the deadline for REAL ID enforcement,” the Dec. 18 letter said. “Mr. Mayorkas stated that DHS will grant the state an extension if the Department receives a letter stating that your administration and the leadership of the state House and Senate have an agreement on legislation that ensures REAL ID compliance; that the leadership will bring the bill up for a vote at the upcoming legislative session; and that you will sign the bill into law if it passes.”

Finding agreement could be tough. While the Senate passed a compromise two-tier system in the dying hours of this year’s legislative session, the House never picked it up and has criticized the effort. The Senate version passed on a wide, bipartisan vote.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, vowed earlier this year that an outright repeal, which Martinez and Republicans have advocated for the past five years, would still not pass the Senate.

A series of vigils throughout the state in recent days by immigrant advocates have pushed for the two-tier system.