Doña Ana County commissioners want the state legislature to institute a two-tier driver’s license system in the upcoming legislative session to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.
The issue, when has been a perennial issue since Gov. Susana Martinez was elected, has renewed attention after the state failed to receive a waiver from the federal government over compliance to the REAL ID Act.
This means that New Mexico driver’s licenses will not be accepted to enter federal facilities on January 10. The federal government says that in the spring, New Mexico driver’s licenses will not be proper identification to board commercial flights.
It is now one of the top issues that will face the Legislature in the upcoming legislative session that begins on January 19.
The proposal that the Doña Ana County Commission favored is one that looks like a version passed by the state Senate in the last legislative session, which would have two different licenses. One, which would require proof of citizenship, would be eligible for access to federal facilities and, when it goes into effect, commercial flights. The other would be eligible for driving but not for federal ID purposes.
Gov. Susana Martinez has said in the past that she would not sign such a bill and would only sign outright repeal. The House has passed an outright repeal on those in the country illegally receiving licenses a number of times, but it has gone nowhere in the Senate.
The Doña Ana County commissioners voted 4-1 to send the suggestion the Legislature over some objections.
Benjamin Rawson, the son of a former State Senator, said he didn’t think they commission should suggest a specific option to the Legislature. Rawson was originally appointed to the position by Gov. Susana Martinez.
KVIA, an El Paso TV station, reported that a representative of Comunidades en Accion y de Fe (CAFé) opposed the two-tier system, which has been called the Utah licensing model.
From the KVIA report:
“We do oppose the idea of creating the scarlet letter I.D. that further marginalizes our people,” Johana Bencomo, community organizer of Communities in Action and Faith, said.
Bencomo tells ABC-7 she’s seen the two-tier system done in states like Colorado and fears it will only label undocumented immigrants.
The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops also oppose the two-tier system. Earlier this month, spokesman Allen Sanchez outlined a similar argument as Bencomo did.
Both CAFé and the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops support laws that allow those who are in the country without documentation to have driver’s licenses.