In 2005, the Real ID Act was passed to ensure that the documents used to acquire a state driver’s licenses were authentic. At least 17 states did not comply with the Real ID Act, and some states even passed legislation to fight the Act. For example, New Mexico grants driver’s licenses to those who use a utility or another form of identification, such as the Matricula Consular card that is issued to Mexican nationals.
Nearly ten years after the passage of the Act, the federal government is putting into place new federal provisions of the Real ID Act that will significantly change this. As of January 15, the federal government will start requiring proof of citizenship in order to obtain a driver’s license. The federal government may not recognize other state IDs unless they are supported by these documents, and this may become an extreme inconvenience for residents of Arizona.
As a result of the state’s lenience in issuing driver’s licenses to non-citizens, New Mexico continues to rank at the top as one of the states with the most uninsured drivers. Before the law went into effect in 2000, the number of uninsured drivers in the state was 26.3 percent. Today, this number has jumped to 29.5 percent.
If these laws are finally enforced by the federal government, residents of New Mexico may no longer be able to use their driver’s license to get on an airplane, work at a lab, or enter any other federal building or complex. The governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, has been vocal about her concerns with these new federal requirements and has sent a letter of inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security’s Director. According to a DHS spokesperson, the act will be strictly enforced and the DHS is maintaining the January 15, 2013 deadline. States that comply with the criteria will have an extended deadline, but New Mexico has not filed the required information for this extended deadline.
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