February 26, 2016

Feds give NM REAL ID extension

New Mexico received an extension on a waiver that will allow the state to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave the extension to the state on Friday after the state legislature approved a bill that would bring New Mexico into compliance with the controversial federal law while still allowing those who are in the country illegally to legally drive.

The Associated Press first reported the news that the federal government granted the waiver.

Gov. Susana Martinez requested the waiver earlier this week while in Washington D.C.

This comes after DHS denied an extension to New Mexico late last year. The department let the congressional delegation know that an extension would still be available if the Legislature and governor could come to an agreement before the session.

This would have avoided the situation where state licenses were not valid identification for those entering federal facilities. Fears that it would require a passport to board even domestic flights (which would not have taken place until 2018) dominated discussion on the issue.

The extension will go through October. This is designed to give the state time to implement a new driver’s license system, but as long as the state shows it is making progress toward compliance, further extensions can happen.

Legislators passed a bill this year that established two forms of identification: one a driver’s license compliant with REAL ID and the other a driver’s privilege card noncompliant with the regulations.

Currently, immigrants who are in the country can obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses regardless of legal status.

Now, those who are in the country legally can choose a REAL ID compliant license or the driver’s privilege card.

Only new drivers who cannot prove they are in the country legally will be required to provide fingerprints; those who have driver’s licenses will not have to provide fingerprints. No one who is the country legally, and can prove so, will need to provide fingerprints.

Martinez pushed for a law that would stop those who are in the country illegally from obtaining any driving privileges; until this year, she rejected out of hand options that would allow them to continue to legally drive.

She has indicated that she will sign the legislation.