When state lawmakers last month passed a bill establishing a two-tier driver’s license system in New Mexico, many congratulated themselves for ending a years-long, contentious debate over driver’s licenses for immigrants who are in the country illegally. Gov. Susana Martinez made similar remarks on Tuesday when she signed the legislation, which will go into effect July 1. But perhaps the key reason the Legislature passed the bill this year was to comply with a controversial federal law passed 11 years ago in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Largely absent from the discussion was how compliance with various provisions in the law will impact New Mexico in future years. The Real ID Act gives national standards on state identification cards in an effort to crackdown on fraud and identity theft.
A legislator who has been arguably the most visible proponent of repealing the law that allows undocumented immigrants now says he would be on board with a two-tier system. Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, who sponsored outright repeal bills in the past, made the move following news that New Mexico did not receive an extension on a waiver for compliance on the REAL ID Act. The legislation would allow those who are in the country illegally to have a license for driving, but it would not be valid for federal identification purposes. The Associated Press first reported on the news. Rep. Paul Pacheco told The Associated Press he will sponsor legislation that would grant New Mexico “driving privilege cards” for immigrants suspected of living in the country illegal.
New Mexicans may not be able to use their state-issued driver’s licenses to board airplanes by next year, according to a letter from the federal Department of Homeland Security. The federal agency recently rejected a waiver the state applied for to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. Congress passed the law 10 years ago in an attempt to shore state driver’s licenses into a national I.D. program follow the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. The Associated Press first reported on the DHS letter, which was addressed to New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla. “New Mexico has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance with the REAL ID standards that would warrant granting your request for another extension,” the letter reads.