Democrats propose new REAL ID compliance plan

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By Jim Monteleone Albuquerque Jounral February 14, 2014  SANTA FE – With a week left in the 30-day New Mexico legislative session, House Democrats are attempting to fast-track legislation to create a new REAL ID-compliant identification card.

The effort comes after a House committee on Saturday tabled legislation that would have repealed driver’s licenses from most immigrants illegally in the country.

Gov. Susana Martinez has pushed for the repeal in part because the practice puts the state out of compliance with the federal REAL ID Act, scheduled to take effect this year. Noncompliance would bar New Mexico driver’s licenses from being used to enter some federal buildings and, as early as 2016, being used to board commercial flights.

House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, says the Legislature instead should focus on creating a new REAL ID-complaint identification for citizens. The proposal was introduced last year by Republican Rep. Paul Bandy of Aztec, but it never cleared a House committee.

“Instead of lowering the general New Mexico driver’s license to create a second-class (license) for our immigrant community, we can just raise our federal ID,” Martinez said Saturday. “… I’d be happy to make that happen in such a manner that we can get it done before the end of this session.”

The governor on Thursday recognized the request and issued an executive message that allows the Legislature to consider the issue.

“I’m happy the governor gave a message to be in compliance with REAL ID without repealing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants,” said Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, the majority whip. “What we’ve learned from federal Homeland Security is that states can be REAL ID-compliant and still have the good policy of issuing driver’s licences to the immigrant community.”

But Maestas was not speaking for the governor. Although she is allowing the speaker’s proposal to be considered, she still wants a repeal of the existing license law and her office says she’s not endorsing passage of his REAL ID plan.

“It appears the speaker wants to advance a bill that would require the vast majority of New Mexicans to visit the Motor Vehicle Division and obtain a second form of identification that meets the federal REAL ID requirements in order to do something as simple as travel on an airplane or enter federal buildings,” said governor’s spokesman Enrique Knell. “It places a burden on virtually all New Mexicans by failing to recognize the one impediment preventing our current licenses from being REAL ID compliant – the fact that the state still grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.”

Bandy said there may not be time to consider the REAL ID compliance proposal.

“I presented it (last year) because I thought it was a good idea, but I think it’s kind of late now,” Bandy said