SANTA FE – Democratic U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall of New Mexico have asked the federal Department of Homeland Security to push back the coming deadline for states to comply with the Real ID Act.
In a letter sent Wednesday to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Udall and Bingaman said the uncertainty surrounding the Jan. 15 deadline is creating confusion and concern in New Mexico and other states that do not meet the Real ID Act’s criteria.
“We have been expecting an announcement that your department will extend the deadline or delay enforcement of the act, but to date there has been no statement either way,” they wrote in their letter.
At least 24 states, including New Mexico, have been notified they are not in full compliance with the Real ID Act, which was signed into law in 2005 as an anti-terrorism measure. Meanwhile, 17 states have passed laws explicitly opposing the federal act.
In New Mexico’s case, the reasons the state is not in compliance include a state law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain state-issued driver’s licenses and the federal law’s information technology requirements that the state has yet to meet.
However, implementation of the act, originally scheduled for 2009, has already been extended three times by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While concerns have been raised that New Mexico residents would need passports to board airline flights or enter certain federal buildings, Homeland Security officials have said the January deadline applies only to states meeting certain requirements, and won’t affect individuals.
As such, state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards could still be used for such purposes by all New Mexicans until December 2014. However, the uncertainty surrounding the Real ID Act and its looming deadline has prompted a recent rush in New Mexico for passport applications and renewals.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal