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EDITORIAL: ID Delay Gives N.M. Time for License Fix

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 28, 2012 at 7:08 am •  Published: December 28, 2012

Make it real or repeal it.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security just gave passport-less New Mexico travelers an early year-end gift. They can continue to board an airplane using their state-issued driver’s licenses.

The federal Real ID Act was scheduled to take effect Jan. 15. Homeland Security put off — once again — enforcement for the 37 states, including New Mexico, that don’t comply with the law. A new deadline is supposed to be set by late 2013.

The Real ID Act requires states to include federal security standards on state-issued identification such as driver’s licenses before they can be used for air travel or entering federal buildings. Congress set the security rules in 2005 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

New Mexico driver’s licenses violate 16 of the law’s 31 requirements, but the major one is the state’s practice of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

Despite several Martinez administration-backed attempts to repeal the state’s law, the Democratic-controlled Legislature has balked — even though in the wake of 9-11 it is ridiculous to argue that proving you are in the country legally is an onerous requirement to obtain a gold-plated ID.

Absent a Homeland Security announcement about the deadline’s status, Gov. Susana Martinez and several members of the New Mexico congressional delegation pressed Homeland Security for clarification.

The Jan. 15 deadline would have mandated that states have certain security features on driver’s licenses and identification cards and have a connection to a national database of license information. Even if the January deadline had taken effect, travelers would not be have been adversely impacted until December 2014. However, widespread fear it would apply to individuals prompted an uptick in passport applications and renewals.

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