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Editorial: NM law means you need passport, terrorists don’t

Here are two words for the members of the New Mexico Legislature – particularly Senate Democrats – who remain wedded to the misguided 2003 statute that hands tamper-proof, government-vetted identification in the form of driver’s licenses to people in this country illegally.

Paris. Passports.

New Mexico’s continued noncompliance with the federal Real ID Act presents a continued national security risk regarding the first and a huge local logistical problem regarding the second.

First, it takes a special kind of denial to ignore that the reason Congress passed Real ID in 2005 was to prevent another 9-11 attack.

Under current New Mexico law, members of the terrorist cell that rained carnage across the City of Light last week could come to New Mexico, fill out a fake rental agreement for an apartment and hand over $18 for a driver’s license, enabling them to cross state lines and board commercial flights to bring their jihad to the United States.

That is no exaggeration.

The long list of human smugglers and immigrants from around the world who have been caught in New Mexico’s run of driver’s license fraud could easily have included Ismael Omar Mostefai, Samy Amimour, Ahmad Al-Mohammad, Bilal Hadfi, Brahim Abdeslam, Salah Abdeslam and suspected mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Second, it presents a special kind of burden on thousands of legal New Mexico residents to require them to get a passport to enter federal buildings and installations come Jan. 10 or board a commercial flight later next year, all because the feds have designated New Mexico driver’s licenses as not complying with Real ID.

It takes time and money to get a passport – something many folks working in New Mexico, where the annual per capita income is just $23,763, can’t spare. And they shouldn’t have to.

Yet there are civilian employees who work on the state’s four military bases and in the state’s three federal research laboratories. There are those who drive delivery trucks onto federal installations. And there are those who fly routinely as sales representatives and as business leaders trying to take New Mexico to the world and/or bring the next big thing to the Land of Enchantment.

All will have to spend extra time (four to six weeks minimum) and money ($55 for a card good for domestic travel, $135 for a book good for international trips) getting a passport if they want to keep working.

Meanwhile, the criminals and terrorists don’t.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, who has vowed to never let license law repeal get on his chamber’s calendar for a vote, should reconsider just whom he is helping by flouting federal law.

So as the death toll in Paris continues to rise, as police raids spread across Europe in search of jihadis and bombs rain down in Syria seeking to slow if not stop the terror, the New Mexico Legislature and those who would paint the driver’s license issue here as one of poor immigrant parents trying to drive their children to school need to come to grips with reality.

They can follow other states’ lead and get into compliance with Real ID by reserving licenses good for government ID for legal residents and establishing a permit good only for driving to people regardless of citizenship (something Gov. Susana Martinez’s office advocated for last session).

Or they can double down on attracting foreign criminals and risk moving up from human smugglers to suicide bombers.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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