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Governor seeks waiver from federal ID rules

Russell Contreras
The Associated Press
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez delivers closing statements from her office on Thursday after the end of the legislative session.

ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico governor asked for a waiver from tougher federal identification requirements after lawmakers passed a bill to revise the state driver's license law that gives them to immigrants regardless of legal status, her office said Monday.

Gov. Susana Martinez said the state needs time to adopt the law that complies with the federal REAL ID Act, which requires proof of legal U.S. residency for those who want to use state identification to access certain areas of federal facilities.

The measure passed last week would stop immigrants in the country illegally from obtaining driver's licenses. They would be able to get newly created driver's authorization cards by submitting fingerprints. Immigrants with driver's licenses issued under the old law will be able to keep them.

Martinez presented the request for a waiver from REAL ID rules during a recent meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in Washington, D.C., spokesman Mike Lonergan said.

"They had a productive conversation, and we look forward to hearing from DHS on this request soon," Lonergan said.

The department denied New Mexico an extension from the tougher requirements last year. After that, some military installations, such as White Sands Missile Range, stopped accepting state driver's licenses to gain entry.

Martinez said she will sign the bill but has not indicated when.

Immigration advocates listen to a debate about a bill aimed at putting New Mexico in compliance with the federal REAL ID Act at the state Capitol in Santa Fe on Jan 27.

After she does, state officials will submit a plan to the federal government on implementing the law, said Demesia Padilla, secretary of the state Taxation and Revenue Department. The plan will get started two to three weeks after Homeland Security gives final approval, Padilla said.

"We want a plan that doesn't create a lot of chaos," she said.

Driver's authorization cards will initially be given only at state-run Motor Vehicle Division offices because officials need to work out how they will gather fingerprints, Padilla said. After that, private companies that issue licenses also will be allow to give out the cards, she said.

Homeland Security does not need to approve the plan for the state to disseminate authorization cards, but federal officials want to see them before they are issued, Padilla said.