The U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed New Mexico this week that the state will not be granted an additional extension of time to comply with federal driver’s license standards under the Real ID Act passed by Congress in 2005.
A letter on behalf of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to Demisia Padilla, Secretary of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department finds that “New Mexico has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance with the REAL ID standards that would warrant granting your request for another extension.”
A notice on the DHS website, “Real ID Enforcement in Brief,” notes that New Mexico was “under review for an extension renewal,” which allowed Federal agencies to accept New Mexico driver’s licenses until at least Jan. 10, 2016.
The DHS letter explains that “The Department is allowing a three-month grace period before the expiration of existing extensions becomes effective.”
Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, among several federal facilities in the state have announced plans to maintain compliance with the law.
“Los Alamos National Laboratory is closely coordintating with the Department of Energy, which oversees the labs, to ensure that we continue to be in compliance with the REAL ID Act,” a laboratory spokesperson said Thursday. “Should the State of New Mexico not come into compliance with the requirements of the federal REAL ID Act by Jan. 10, Los Alamos National Laboratory will have alternate access control options in place, such as a valid U.S. Passport, for when individuals present ID’s from non-compliant states or territories.”
The REAL ID law has sparked many different kinds of controversy across the country, from Libertarian and States Rights objections to a national identification system, which is held to be a threat to individual freedom and privacy, to complaints about the unnecessary costs associated with enforcement.
The New Mexico Legislature does not meet again until Jan. 19, 2016, and cannot be expected to act until well after the current deadline, if at all. While Gov. Susana Martinez has strongly supported compliance with REAL ID in recent years, Democrats in the legislature have opposed laws that deprive non-citizens of equal protection rights, or threaten a particular group with special treatment or based on identity. A two-tiered proposal that would have instituted separate driver’s licenses for non-citizens also failed earlier this year.
New Mexico citizens who rely on their driver’s license for entrance to federal facilities or for travel may find it necessary to use a passport as early as next year. Renewing a passport can take several months and obtaining a new passport can take even longer.