January 20, 2016

NM, other states’ licenses not accepted by DoD

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If you want to visit a U.S. Department of Defense facility, you will need some identification that isn’t a New Mexico driver’s license.

New-Mexico-drivers-License-PolicyOr one from Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri or Washington state.

“All federal agencies including DoD must comply with the law regarding the use of REAL IDs for official purposes,” an unnamed DoD official said in a release sent to media. “For most DoD installations, an identification card or an installation pass is required to facilitate access. Hence, where an ID or an installation pass is used for physical access, DoD installations are prohibited from accepting driver’s licenses or state identification cards from states deemed non-REAL ID compliant.”

The DoD announced the decision on Wednesday, one day after the start of New Mexico’s legislative session.

Among the priorities listed by both Republicans and Democrats is getting REAL ID-compliant licenses.

The two parties, however, differ on how to do that.

Republicans, including Gov. Susana Martinez, prefer legislation that would not allow those who cannot prove they are in the country illegally to get driver’s licenses but instead allow them driving privilege cards.

Democrats lined up behind legislation that would have two tiers of driver’s licenses, one of which is compliant with REAL ID and one which is not. The one that is not would be clearly marked.

The driving privilege card idea is newly embraced by Martinez and many Republicans; in the past, they have advocated for an outright repeal on the law that does not require citizenship to apply for a driver’s license.

A compromise bill that is closer to the Democrats’ version passed the Senate 35-5 in the final hours of last year’s session. The House did not take up the legislation before the session ended.

Late last year, the Department of Homeland Security denied an additional waiver for the state to comply with the REAL ID Act. The state received lifeline when a DHS official told the New Mexico congressional delegation that if the House, Senate and governor could come to an agreement that a waiver would still be possible.

They were unable to come to an agreement before the session began.

Some facilities in New Mexico including White Sands Missile Range and Sandia National Laboratories have stopped accepting New Mexico licenses; since personnel have other identification this largely impacts visitors and contractors.

There will be exceptions, with the official noting “a graduation ceremony guest list, escorts, etc.” Also, medical emergencies and situations where one must access the facilities to apply for benefits would be exempt from the requirements.

More than 30 million people live in the states listed. American Samoa is also included in the ban.

Update: Added information about the Department of Homeland Security’s actions.