SANTA FE – Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, a Democrat, and House Speaker Don Tripp, a Republican, plan to meet today to discuss the looming crackdown on using New Mexico driver’s licenses as identification at some federal installations and what might be done to avert it.
Sanchez said he wants to talk about sending a letter to the federal Department of Homeland Security seeking to assure the agency that the Legislature will pass a driver’s license bill in the session beginning Jan. 19 that makes New Mexico compliant with the Real ID Act.
He said such a letter – which would be aimed at persuading DHS to delay enforcement of Real ID – would not have to outline specific legislation.
“We don’t have to agree on what it’s going to be, but let’s make sure Homeland Security knows we’re serious, that we’re going to get it done in this legislative session,” Sanchez told the
Tripp characterized the meeting as “very preliminary,” saying any actual negotiations over legislation would require a broader group.
“This is not a solve-all, and I don’t think the senator or myself are trying to speak for our entire caucus. We’re just trying to see where we can go,” Tripp said.
Homeland Security has said that as of Jan. 10, New Mexico licenses would no longer be sufficient as ID at certain federal installations, including military bases, because they do not comply with the Real ID law.
Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation said recently that DHS would delay enforcement of Real ID if the governor and legislative leaders agreed on a fix by Jan. 10.
They told Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in a letter that New Mexico could get an extension if she and legislative leaders agreed on a bill, the leadership agreed to bring it up during the session, and Martinez agreed to sign it.
Sanchez told the Journal that because of conversations he has had with DHS officials, he isn’t worried that the proposed letter would be considered insufficient because it didn’t contain particulars.
“They just wanted to be assured we’re going to get it done and it was going to be Real ID-compliant,” the senator said.
Tripp called Sanchez on Wednesday, the same day his office sent a letter to Senate Democratic leaders saying it was important to meet “as soon as possible.”
“I’m glad Rep. Tripp reached out to me,” Sanchez said of the speaker’s phone call. “Hopefully, we can come up with some resolutions.”
Both men represent the Belen area and have had a long, cordial relationship.
Martinez and House Republicans are working on a bill that would halt the issuance of driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally, and instead provide driving privilege cards that would not be usable as ID for federal purposes. The Governor’s Office said in a statement Wednesday that Sanchez should support that bill.
Senate Democrats and most Senate Republicans, however, have previously backed a different plan: issuing two tiers of driver’s licenses, one Real ID-compliant tier for those who qualify and a second tier for those who cannot prove they’re in the country legally or don’t want to comply with Real ID.