With the Real ID Act coming into effect on Jan. 15, 2013, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez hopes to repeal the driver's license rule once again — despite her many failed attempts and the fact many feel it's not as an important issue as Martinez makes it out to be.
New Mexico is one of the three states, the others being Washington and Utah, which allows undocumented immigrants to drive legally. According to Martinez and Policy Analyst for Public Safety and Education Brad Galbraith, how we issue licenses to illegal immigrants is a big reason why we won't be in compliance with the Real Id Act. As of now, New Mexico is already in compliance with 10 of the 18 checkpoints that The Department of Homeland Security has published.
"Every state has to be in compliance or they don't get access to federal facilities — that would be nuclear plants, national labs and also that would be airports because TSA (Transportation Security Administration) provides security. They won't be able to use their New Mexico driver's license, because the federal government won't recognize them as valid. That's one of the main reasons besides public safety," Galbraith said.
Immigrants' rights groups in New Mexico, such as Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Border Network for Human Rights, disagree with the governor's efforts to repeal the driver's license law. Community Organizer with Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Marina Pina said we should be focusing our energy and the taxpayer's money on more important issues such as jobs and the economy in New Mexico.
"Governor Martinez comes in and keeps repeating the message that most of New Mexicans want to repeal the law, however we have seen that now with this election the candidates that were pro-driver's licenses or pro-immigrant or have a better approach other than repealing the law have been elected, which means that really New Mexicans voters don't care about driver's licenses. It's not a priority," Pina said.
While Somos Un Pueblo Unido is fine with improving the law, which the recently-passed driver's license compromise bill has done led by New Mexico Senator Timothy Jennings. According to Jennings, some of the changes in the bill for the driver's license rule include undocumented immigrants getting fingerprinted and making the length of the license only a year. However, the Border Network for Human Rights strongly opposes any changes to the law according to Communications Director Cristina Parker.
"It really impacts quality of life for the whole family, particularly for the children. So for that reason we feel we don't need to get rid of this law, its working fine. There are more security measures on the State of New Mexico's licensing than there are in any other state and so for that reason the license is secure. Of course crime is going to happen or fraud is going to happen, but people need to understand we need to crack down on people who are committing fraud," Parker said.
New Mexico is not the only state having problems agreeing or complying with the terms of the Real ID, 25 states in some form have rejected or passed resolutions against the act. According to Jennings, it's because many people feel it's an invasion of privacy and the government does not need to know everything about them and where they go.
"The problem is not really a state problem, this is a national issue. It has been forced upon the state by congress and by the congressional delegations not having the guts to stand up and make and pass the bills. So it's not a state issue, immigration is not one of those powers that was left to the state under the constitution. It's clearly a national issue," Jennings said.