New Mexico driver’s licenses will once again get people onto military bases and into other federal facilities.
That’s because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted a waiver to the state on Friday giving it more time to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.
The new system will give most New Mexicans a license that complies with the security measures required by REAL ID and allow those who don’t — or can’t — prove citizenship and provide other documentation to obtain an alternative “driving authorization card” that still lets them drive legally.
“REAL ID has caused unnecessary confusion and uncertainty for many New Mexicans, and this extension from the Department of Homeland Security means we can finally move out of limbo,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. “Families now have much-deserved certainty that the state’s belated compliance with the REAL ID law will not inhibit travel plans or their ability to visit federal facilities.”
In January, the federal government cracked down on several states that weren’t making progress toward REAL ID compliance, including New Mexico, by declaring that their licenses would no longer be valid forms of identification to get onto military bases and into some other federal facilities. The more impactful looming threat was that, starting in 2018, non-compliant licenses wouldn’t get people onto domestic flights.
The punishment from Homeland Security came after Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, and many legislative Democrats battled for years over whether New Mexico should continue to give immigrants without legal status a way to drive legally. In January, Martinez dropped her longstanding opposition to giving such immigrants a way to drive legally, agreeing instead to back the two-tier licensure proposal.
The resulting compromise legislation soared through the Legislature.
Udall was joined by the other Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation in Washington in thanking Homeland Security on Friday for the new waiver.
“I appreciate the Department of Homeland Security for supporting New Mexico’s legislators as they brokered a bipartisan compromise,” said U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.
The compromise legislation, which Martinez has said she will sign, doesn’t make New Mexico fully compliant with REAL ID — yet — but it does put the state back on that path. The reinstatement of New Mexico’s waiver, which gives the state time to implement a REAL ID-compliant system, came after Martinez traveled to Washington to ask Homeland Security officials for a new extension after the Legislature approved the compromise.