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Real ID accord remains elusive

SANTA FE – Two top legislative leaders met Thursday to discuss the pending crackdown on New Mexico’s driver’s licenses but didn’t come to any agreement on a letter to federal officials in an effort to avert it.

It remained unclear whether anything would be done before Monday’s scheduled enforcement of the federal Real ID law, which would make New Mexico licenses insufficient as identification at some federal installations.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen, a Democrat, has been pushing for state leaders to write the Department of Homeland Security assuring the agency that the Legislature will pass a bill in the coming session to bring New Mexico into compliance with the Real ID law, and asking for an enforcement delay.

He met Thursday with House Speaker Don Tripp of Socorro, a Republican, to discuss such a letter.

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But Tripp said after the meeting, which they both described as brief and cordial, that the letter wouldn’t be enough for DHS.

“Homeland Security wants it to be a commitment from all three legs of the stool,” including the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez, Tripp told the Journal. He also said DHS wants to see a bill, or at least an extensive framework for one, before it would agree to another extension.

Tripp said he recommended further talks that would include representatives of the Senate, House, and Governor’s Office.

“It was a simple request, and for whatever reason, he didn’t think he could do it or the administration would do it,” Sanchez told the Journal after the meeting. “I was disappointed.”

It was clear Thursday that significant differences remain over legislation to make the state’s licenses compliant with Real ID.

“The House and the Governor’s Office are pretty much committed to suspending the practice of giving driver’s licenses to illegals, and that’s the main focus,” Tripp said.

A plan backed by House Republicans and Martinez would create a two-tiered system: Real ID-compliant licenses, and driving privilege cards available only to immigrants who can’t prove they’re here legally.

It would effectively halt the issuance of driver’s licenses to those who are in the U.S. illegally, which is allowed under a 2003 law. Martinez has been trying to get that state law repealed since she was first elected in 2010.

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Immigrants’ rights advocates said the GOP plan is discriminatory, that it singles out and stigmatizes immigrants.

“Taking away drivers’ licenses from 90,000 New Mexicans, immigrants who have lived, worked and paid taxes here, and then force them to carry a driver’s permit marked with their immigration status goes against everything New Mexico stands for,” said Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

Sanchez and the Legislature’s other top Democrats – Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and House Minority Leader Brian Egolf of Santa Fe – said Thursday that New Mexicans with privacy concerns should be able to choose whether they get Real ID-compliant licenses.

In a letter to Tripp – separate from the meeting – they said the second tier of driver’s licenses should be available not only to immigrants who can’t prove they’re here legally, but also to those who are worried about the implications of Real ID. That’s essentially what the Democratic-dominated state Senate passed last year, with strong Republican support.

The Real ID Act requires U.S. citizens to present documentation such as birth certificates and Social Security cards when they apply for licenses. Because the information would be available to other states, “many people, including conservative Republicans, have serious concerns about the risks to privacy and civil liberties,” the letter said.


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