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.
Now, everyone can relax and take their time getting their documents in order.
Ten years after 9-11 and seven years after the act was passed, it’s hard to make an argument that the REAL ID Act is essential.
Meanwhile, there are other reasons besides noncompliance with the REAL ID Act — such as New Mexico’s status as a magnet for people across the nation who are fraudulently seeking identification — that continues to make it good policy for the Legislature to get off the dime and repeal New Mexico’s driver’s license law in the upcoming 2013 session.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.
©2012 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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