DOD announces New Mexico ID restrictions

Associated Press
Demonstrators from the Santa Fe-based immigrant advocate group Somos Un Pueblo Unido hold signs outside the capitol in Santa Fe on Tuesday to protest Gov. Susana Martinez’s attempt to revise the state’s immigrant driver’s license law.

SANTA FE — Federal officials announced Wednesday that New Mexico driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted as proof of identity to enter any Department of Defense installation, adding more pressure to lawmakers who are set to debate proposals aimed at making the state compliant under the federal REAL ID Act

In a post on its website, the U.S. Department of Defense said driver’s licenses from New Mexico — along with those from Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri and Washington state — can’t be used to enter bases because of REAL ID requirements.

Those attempting to gain physical access to Department of Defense installations must show an alternate form of identification, like a passport or a card issued by the base, officials said

The move comes after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declined to give New Mexico an extension on complying with tougher rules under the federal REAL ID Act. Those rules require proof of legal U.S. residency in order for state driver’s licenses and IDs to be valid for some federal purposes.

Sandia Labs, White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas, also said this month that they would stop accepting New Mexico IDs.

But Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis said visitors could continue to use a New Mexico driver’s license to enter while officials review the new Department of Defense guidelines.

A New Mexico House committee is scheduled to begin debate Thursday on one of many REAL ID proposals.

GOP House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, blamed the restrictions on Senate Democrats who have balked at previous Republican proposals aimed at revising a state law that allows immigrants in the country illegally to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses.

“Our ID isn’t secure, and until we fix it, everyone from contractors, to hunters, and ultimately all citizens who simply want to board an aircraft will be affected,” Gov. Susana Martinez said.

The Department of Homeland Security said holders of non-compliant IDs won’t be able to use them to board commercial flights starting in 2018.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said he is confident the Senate will pass legislation this session to fix the problem. He urged contractors and workers at bases in New Mexico to contact employers to see if they are affected by the changes.