Feds have no special rules for New Mexico residents as 2013 nears
At least a few times a month, the same claim is recirculated across New Mexico: State residents will need passports to board domestic flights in 2013.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security tells us this is not so.
We sent these questions to the agency: Will New Mexico driver's licenses be acceptable to board airplanes for domestic flights for the foreseeable future? Is there any possibility that the REAL ID Act will require passports of those who have New Mexico drivers licenses?
Marsha Catron of the DHS emailed us a terse answer this week: "DHS has not made any determinations regarding compliance for any state at this time."
Much of the speculation about the validity of New Mexico driver's licenses started in October -- homestretch of the election campaign -- when Gov. Susana Martinez sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on implementation of the REAL ID Act.
Martinez also made this statement that carried political and practical overtones.
“Unfortunately, New Mexico’s practice of giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants not only poses a significant and well-documented public safety threat, it also undermines the validity and security of every New Mexico driver’s license. It’s deeply concerning that New Mexicans who work at our labs, get on an airplane, or need to show identification at any other federal facility will no longer be able to use their driver’s license to do so. This is not just an inconvenience; it is an incredible burden on our citizens and our businesses, and on our ability to be competitive with our neighboring states.”
Catron did not respond directly to other questions we sent, but she sent this fact sheet:
• REAL ID only applies to state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, not all forms of identification and only for official purposes defined in the act and regulation.
• Jan. 15, 2013 is set in regulation by DHS, and applies to 50 U.S States and six U.S. territories. January 2013 deadline applies to the state meeting requirements, not an individual.
• The December 2014 and December 2017 dates remain in effect, at which time the individual must have a REAL ID driver’s license or identification document if an individual chooses to provide a driver’s license for an official purpose, such as boarding a commercial aircraft. REAL ID does not impact any other acceptable form of identification an individual chooses to provide for these same purposes.
• By December 2014, all individuals under the age of 50 must have a REAL ID driver’s license or identification document if an individual chooses to provide a driver’s license for an official purpose. By December 2017, all individuals must have a REAL ID driver’s license or identification document if an individual chooses to provide a driver’s license for an official purpose.
But the ACLU of New Mexico told travelers there is no reason for concern, not in 2014 or in any year.
"REAL ID is dead," the ACLU said in response to Martinez's letter and statement.
"Americans have already rejected large parts of this ill-conceived attempt to unite state drivers’ licenses into a national ID card. Thirty-six states — including New Mexico — currently do not fully comply with this unpopular, unfunded mandate. In fact, 25 states have passed resolutions rejecting REAL ID, and in 15 states (more than 20 percent of the U.S. population), it is illegal for state officials to comply with the law.
"Just as we saw in 2008, 2009, and then 2011 — all previous deadlines for compliance — the Department of Homeland Security will almost surely kick the can further down the road and extend the deadline again. The government cannot afford to ban 20 percent of the total population from entering a federal building or boarding a plane back home from winter holidays."
What is certain is that your driver's license remains a valid ID to fly and that Martinez, through a Republican legislator, will push another bill in January to repeal the law that enables people without proof of immigration status to obtain New Mexico driver's licenses.