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New Mexico Legislature OKs Two-Tiered Driver's License Plan

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, has battled with the state Legislature for five years over the REAL ID driver's license issue. (Wikimedia Commons)
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, has battled with the state Legislature for five years over the REAL ID driver's license issue. (Wikimedia Commons)
February 18, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico appears to have resolved its driver's license dilemma, with immigrants and Gov. Susana Martinez both claiming victory.

House Bill 99, passed by the Legislature and awaiting the governor's signature, would resolve the state's five-year-long battle over the federal REAL ID program, and allow currently licensed undocumented immigrants to keep driving.

Marcela Diaz, director of the immigrant rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, says lawmakers came up with two types of licenses.

"It's a true, two-tiered license system, one REAL ID compliant license and a non-REAL ID license, otherwise known as a Driver Authorization Card," she explains.

The bill requires a driver's license applicant to be a U.S. citizen in order to meet federal REAL ID standards and use the license to board airplanes and enter federal installations.

But a second type of document, a Driver's Authorization Card, will be available without requiring a birth certificate or other citizenship documents.

That card will permit driving, but won't meet REAL ID standards.

Diaz says her group worked to defeat a provision of the bill backed by the governor that would have forced the state's 90,000 currently licensed, undocumented immigrants to submit to fingerprinting.

"We fought for that because what we did not want was a discriminatory driver’s permit card just for undocumented immigrants that would single us out every time we showed that license," she explains.

However, Martinez is claiming victory over a provision that stayed in the final bill that requires persons seeking a license for the first time, who are undocumented, to be fingerprinted. The governor has said publicly that she will sign the bill into law.

Mark Richardson/Scott Herron, Public News Service - NM