Gov Martinez says you’ll soon have to show a passport for domestic flights unless law allowing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants is changed

By Rob Nikolewski on February 14, 2011
Print This Post Print This Post

Gov. Susana Martinez says if the state does not pass a bill this legislative session revoking driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, New Mexicans would have to show their passports in order to board airplanes — even for domestic flights — because New Mexico driver’s licenses will be in violation of the federal government’s Real ID Act.

At a news conference in support of a House bill that would require driver’s license applicants to produce valid Social Security numbers, Gov. Martinez listed the Real ID Act as one of a number of reasons why she opposes the state’s current policy of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

“If we don’t strengthen our laws, we won’t meet the requirements outlined by the Real ID Act,” Martinez said Friday (Feb. 11), “and for the average New Mexican this means that instead of being able to use a piece of state identification to board a plane or to enter certain federal buildings, you will have to use a passport — a United States passport — to get on a plane here in New Mexico, in the city of Albuquerque, to travel within the United States.

“This will not only be inconvient but will also create a financial hardship to individuals who don’t have the means to incur an additional $150 cost and subsequent renewal fees to obtain a passport just to get on a plane to travel for business or for vacation.”

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005, although its enforcement has been postponed twice. The federal Department of Homeland Security ruled in 2008 that states must meet a number of standards to meet the act’s requirements including “proof of identity and lawful status” of the holder of a driver’s license.

I sent an e-mail to the DHS asking if Gov. Martinez’ assertion is correct. I’m waiting for a response.

Rep. Andy Nunez (Independent-Hatch) has introduced House Bill 78, which would require a Social Security number for a state driver’s license and would work to revoking those licenses granted to illegal immigrants. The bill has been assigned to the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, which is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans. Sen. John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) will introduce a Senate version of the bill.

Just last week, though, a compromise bill aimed at changing the state policy on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants did not get out of committee. House Bill 261, sponsored by Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque), was tabled on a party line vote in the the House Labor and Human Resources Committee.

Gov. Martinez did not support the measure, saying it was a watered down version of what she campaigned on.

But if a watered-down version couldn’t make it out of committee, how can a more restrictive version make it? The Governor said she’s asking for supporters of HB78 to contact their legislators:

New Mexico is one of three states that issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Utah and Washington are the others. Currently, a bill that would rescind the measure in Utah has passed a legislative committee (click here for details).

A recent article by the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that nearly 83,000 people identified as foreign nationals have received New Mexico driver’s licenses since 2003.

Supporters of New Mexico’s current policy say taking driver’s licenses away from undocumented drivers means not being able to track down a person’s true identity, their driving record and any criminal history. Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia says that since 2003, more immigrants have showed up to court to pay their traffic fines, more people have remained on the scene during traffic collisions, and more immigrants have called police to report crimes.

But Gov. Martinez frames the question as a law and order issue and over this past weekend, two violent incidents involving illegal immigrants made headlines.

In Manassas, Va., a man from El Salvador who was ordered to be deported a decade ago, was charged in the pair of attacks blocks apart Thursday night that left three people dead and three others injured and in suburban Atlanta, a man in the country illegally was charged with stabbing two boys to death and wounding another.

Update: Received an e-mail late Monday afternoon from Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano. He didn’t confirm or deny Gov. Martinez’ assertion about New Mexicans possibly having to use passports instead of NM driver’s licenses at airports for domestic flights in May should the state not revoke driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, saying that “DHS continues to work closely with governors, state legislators, state homeland security advisors, and DMV commissioners to address longstanding concerns with the implementation of REAL ID. We commend the states on their progress in working to meet the full compliance deadline and will continue to review all options as we approach May 2011.”

Guess DHS doesn’t want to get involved in a political football here in NM.

Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. Greg Smith
    6:33 pm on February 14th, 2011

    Since the legality of TSA’s ID requirement is in question, they likely would accept New Mexico issued IDs anyways. The TSA will let people go through checkpoints without IDs now. Sounds like fear mongering from the Governor to me.

  2. Barb Able
    11:15 am on February 9th, 2014

    Illegal immigrants are illegal. Their choice, therefore they can’t qualify for a driver license. Yes they will drive anyway, because they have NO respect for our laws. So why do we bend over backwards to accommodate individuals who do think they law applies to them? Whether they have been here 5 mins or 25 years they still are illegal and have broken more laws and should have been punished; not rewarded! Oh TSA may let illegal go through without ID’s but it seems citizens are always force to show ID to do pretty much anything! Those who support giving illegals rewards want to see this country fall!

Leave a Reply