New Mexico’s Congressional Democrats Secure Pledge from DHS that NM Can get Delay of REAL ID Enforcement if Governor and Legislature Agree on REAL ID Fix

Also at Congressional lawmakers’ urging: DHS will act immediately to work with DoD and provide clear guidance on how REAL ID will apply to military installations DHS assured congressional lawmakers that New Mexicans will be able to fly on commercial airlines after Jan. 10

Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has informed them that the state of New Mexico can still get an extension of the deadline for REAL ID enforcement if Gov. Susana Martinez and the leadership of the N.M. House and Senate can verify to DHS that they agree on legislation that ensures REAL ID compliance.

Seeking answers on behalf of New Mexicans about the standards and procedures that DHS will follow to enforce REAL ID, the state’s Democratic congressional delegation recently held a joint meeting with DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. As of Jan. 10, 2016, New Mexico drivers’ licenses will no longer be considered valid forms of identification to enter federal facilities because the governor and the legislature have not agreed to pass a law bringing the state’s drivers’ licenses into compliance with the the REAL ID Act of 2005. But Mayorkas pledged to the congressional leaders that DHS would delay enforcement if New Mexico takes steps before Jan. 10 to prove that the governor and legislators are committed to complying with the law this year.

“It is still possible for the State of New Mexico to request, and receive, an extension of the deadline for REAL ID enforcement,” the congressional lawmakers wrote in a letter to Martinez on Dec. 18, informing her of Mayorkas’ promise. “Mr. Mayorkas stated that DHS will grant the state an extension if the Department receives a letter stating that your administration and the leadership of the state House and Senate have an agreement on legislation that ensures REAL ID compliance; that the leadership will bring the bill up for a vote at the upcoming legislative session; and that you will sign the bill into law if it passes.”

“Our offices remain in close contact with DHS and we stand ready to support a request for an extension that allows the legislature time to pass a bipartisan, pragmatic solution that ensures New Mexicans can continue to access federal facilities and airports in the months to come,” Udall, Heinrich, Luján and Lujan Grisham continued in their letter. “The ongoing uncertainty about accessing federal facilities is an undue burden on the men and women who work at these facilities. We hope that your administration and the legislature will act expeditiously to resolve this issue.”

The congressional lawmakers added that DHS has granted extensions to other states — including New Hampshire — based on anticipated actions in upcoming legislative sessions.

Also during their conversation with DHS officials, Udall, Heinrich, Luján and Lujan Grisham urged DHS to clear up confusion about what form of identification will be required after Jan. 10 to enter a military base in the state of New Mexico. Numerous constituents have contacted the congressional offices reporting that the state’s military bases are planning on following conflicting procedures. Mayorkas agreed to contact the Department of Defense (DoD) immediately to ensure that DoD provides the proper guidance to the state’s military installations about what form of identification will be needed for entry once REAL ID goes into effect.

Finally, the congressional lawmakers asked Mayorkas for clarification about whether New Mexico residents will be able to board commercial flights with a New Mexico driver’s license after Jan. 10. DHS clearly stated that residents traveling by air from any state, including New Mexico, will still be allowed to use a driver’s license, or any of the various other forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration. The agency also pledged to provide clear guidance about when REAL ID enforcement will be implemented for boarding commercial aircraft, with a minimum of 120 days notice before enforcement begins.