NM driver's license? You can still fly for 2 more years


By Deborah Baker / ABQ Journal Staff Writer

Published: Friday, January 8, 2016

SANTA FE — New Mexicans can use their driver’s licenses as identification to board commercial airplanes for another two years, the federal Department of Homeland Security announced today.

The final phase of enforcement of the Real ID Act — which affects ID’s used for air travel — will not begin  until Jan. 22, 2018, the agency said.

That’s the case even though New Mexico is not yet compliant with the federal Real ID Act.

As of the 2018 date, if New Mexico is still not compliant with Real ID requirements, travelers would have to show alternative federally approved  ID such as a passport to get on airplanes.

An earlier phase of enforcement — against the use of New Mexico licenses as ID at some federal facilities — is scheduled to begin next week.

The state’s latest extension to comply with Real ID has expired, and a three-month grace period ends Sunday. So as of Monday, alternative forms of ID will be required to access federal installations in New Mexico that already require ID. That includes military bases.

New Mexico is one of several states that is not compliant with Real ID and no longer has an extension. The others are Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington, along with the territory of American Samoa.

The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and sets minimum standards for driver’s licenses with the aim of making them more secure.

New Mexico must pass a law if it is to become Real ID-compliant, and the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez have been unable to reach agreement on what that should include.

Lawmakers will make another run at it in the legislative session that begins Jan. 19.

The Republican governor insists that any Real ID-compliant law include an end to issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants who are here illegally. She is supporting a plan that would issue driving privilege cards to them instead.

Many Democrats, however, support a plan to have two tiers of licenses, one that is Real ID-compliant and one that would be available to immigrants who are here illegally or any New Mexican who does not want to carry a Real ID-compliant license. They say privilege cards would be discriminatory.