Department of Homeland Security Announcement Confirms that New Mexicans Did Not Need to Purchase a Passport to Travel

Senate President Pro Tem Mary K. Papen (D-38-Doña Ana), Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia) and House Minority Leader Brian Egolf (D-47-Santa Fe) today announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will continue to accept New Mexico driver’s licenses for boarding commercial air flights until January, 2018. The Democratic leaders expressed outrage that Governor Susana Martinez has engaged in partisan politics on the issue instead of finding solutions to comply with REAL ID. Over the past months, she and Republican members of the House used REAL ID to generate fear and confusion for hard working people and business owners.

“We are relieved by DHS’s announcement today giving New Mexico more time to comply with the tougher federal REAL ID standards. I am confident the legislature will reach a well thought out agreement that does what is best for New Mexico,” said Senator Papen.

“The history of REAL ID should have recommended caution instead of hysteria to the Executive. It was premature to cause residents of the state to panic. Elected officials cross the line when they play politics to harm residents of New Mexico. The misinformation pushed by the Martinez administration about REAL ID resulted in many people waiting in line for hours at post offices across the state to spend their hard earned money on passports that were not needed,” said Senator Sanchez. “The Governor, with the assistance of some Albuquerque media, scared people to run out and get passports they didn’t need and often could scarcely afford,” Sanchez added.

At a press briefing last month, Senate Democrats played a recording for media of a conversation between a New Mexico resident and the Governor’s office regarding the question of state-issued drivers’ licenses, and whether they would be valid to board domestic commercial flights. During the exchange, the Governor’s office representative stated that beginning January 10th, 2016; New Mexicans would need passports to board commercial aircraft.

Homeland Security made an earlier attempt to clarify misleading information in a letter published by a newspaper on November 20th that stated,” Right now, no one needs to adjust travel plans, rush out to get a new driver’s license or a passport for domestic air travel. And when you do, we will make sure you have plenty of notice.” Rather than calming fears after the letter was published, the Martinez administration accelerated its attempts to provoke anxiety about the need for a passport to travel.

“I am very pleased to hear that the Department of Homeland Security has announced that they will not be enforcing the use of REAL ID compliant cards and licenses at airports and other ports of travel until 2018,” said House Democratic Leader, Rep. Brian Egolf. “However, we must continue to search for common ground. This issue has been used as a political football by Governor Martinez, and New Mexicans deserve better than that. This extension allows for some extra time to find a compromise, but we must find a compromise this session that will ensure that every driver in New Mexico is licensed, insured, and understands the rules of our roads.”

In addition to air travel, no changes in gaining entry to New Mexico’s military bases and national laboratories are anticipated. In accordance with Department of Defense guidelines, military bases will continue to process the current identification and vetting procedures despite the expiration until further notice. (AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION 31-113) Each facility is authorized to determine acceptable identification documents because each facility has different security measures already in place.

There are no anticipated changes to current access procedures at Los Alamos National Labs. (Los Alamos REAL ID Information) Sandia will continue to accept New Mexico ID’s to access if accompanied by an alternate form of ID such as a Social Security Card or a birth certificate. (Sandia Real ID Information) ID requirements to access social security offices, federal courts, IRS facilities, FBI offices, and the VA will not change. (ID Requirements for Federal Buildings Administered by the GSA).