The state of New Mexico has endeavored to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses by easing requirements and letting applicants supply a wider range of documents. However, the Department of Homeland Security has officially notified New Mexico that, effective early next year, its licenses will become virtually useless for federal purposes.
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“Although DHS recognizes the State of New Mexico’s efforts to enhance the security of its driver’s licenses and identification cards, New Mexico has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance with the REAL ID standards that would warrant granting your request for another extension,” read a DHS letter sent to the New Mexico Department of Taxation.
“As a result, federal agencies may not accept New Mexico driver’s licenses and identification cards for official purposes in accordance with the phased enforcement schedule announced on December 20, 2013.” That means that New Mexico residents will no longer be able to present their driver’s licenses for identification at federal offices and for commercial air travel. New Mexico residents will need to show passports to board even domestic flights.
The issue has proven a point of contention between the citizens of New Mexico, whose day-to-day lives would be dramatically affected come January 10 when their licenses lose federal validity, and the state government. Republican Governor Susana Martinez advocates tighter restrictions for those seeking driver’s licenses, but the New Mexico legislature has overwhelmingly decided to maintain the status quo.
“With this letter, the feds are saying that they are fed up that the Legislature continues to allow the dangerous practice of giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,” said Demesia Padilla, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue. “An overwhelming majority of New Mexicans have been very clear on this issue, and the Legislature should start listening to them before it begins to affect the daily lives of New Mexicans.”