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NM Gov. says state won't meet federal ID deadline

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Jan 14 2014 08:40:06 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Vina reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

If you have a New Mexico driver's license you may not be able to fly anywhere next month. Gov. Susana Martinez told ABC-7 the state won't meet strict federal ID regulations.

New Mexicans may be rushing to their nearest post office to get a passport soon.

Martinez said New Mexicans will have to use passports to get into airports, federal buildings, military bases and some national labs.

The Real ID Act takes effect Jan. 15. Martinez said the state will not meet the requirements because it issues licenses and state IDs to illegal immigrants.

For that reason, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will not recognize the IDs as valid federal identification.

"All New Mexicans are being penalized because there's no way to distinguish illegal aliens because their driver's licenses look identical to my driver's license," Martinez told ABC-7.

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005 to keep terrorists from getting fake IDs and using them around the country.

The deadline for states to get in compliance has been pushed back further and further.

This time Homeland Security says time is up.

"National Homeland Security has reported to Congress that the Real ID Act will go into effect. With that, New Mexico will not be in compliance, mostly because of the issuance of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants," Martinez said.

The American Civil Liberties Union thinks otherwise.

"The statement by the governor is misleading at best. Every time the deadline comes up, it's the same thing. In the past, the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline," said Vicki Gaubeca, the director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights.

Gaubeca said there 36 states, including New Mexico, that do not meet the requirements of the law. She added 25 states have even passed resolutions against the Real ID Act.

The state legislative sessions starts on Jan. 15, the same day the Real ID Act is expected to take effect.

According to the governor, that means there is no way for the state to get in compliance before the deadline.

"I am an American citizen. I have a driver's license, and I will have to use a passport to board a plane to fly to Colorado. That is not what it should be about," she said. 

In the past, Martinez has fought to repeal the law that allows illegal immigrants to get licenses.

"I hope the legislature is paying attention to number one, what New Mexicans have been demanding to repeal that law and number two, that it's going to be so expensive to have to buy passports to get into certain places and travel and get on an airplane, that they will do what is right," she said.

"I think this is basically a scare tactic that the governor is using to advance her agenda. I think we need to make people aware that it's unlikely that real ID is actually going to go into effect. We're talking about 20% of the US population being affected because their state doesn't comply," Gaubeca said.

New Mexico is one of two states in the country that issues licenses to illegal immigrants.

Homeland Security said it has not determined which states are in compliance with the Real ID Act at this point.

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