SANTA FE (KRQE)- New Mexico lawmakers have taken a giant step forward in solving the REAL ID issue. House Bill 99 passed the Senate Saturday night.
For the past five years, the federal REAL ID Act has been a thorn in New Mexico’s side. The state’s driver’s licenses are not compliant with the regulations. After numerous extensions, federal facilities recently stopped accepting those licenses as identification. Frustrated residents turned to lawmakers to finally find a solution.
Republican Stuart Ingle said, “We needed to get this done for the people of New Mexico, and we can go on to other things.”
House Bill 99 could be the fix. It provides a two-tier solution. U.S. citizens will be able to get federally compliant licenses, but immigrants will now only be eligible for driving authorization cards. Those cards will not be REAL ID compliant and will not be able to be used federally as a form of identification.
But in order to get those driving authorization cards immigrants will have to be fingerprinted, something some Democrats and immigration rights advocates had been against.
“It has fingerprints, we don’t like that necessarily, but we’re willing to go along with it if it’s restricted, if it’s protected in a certain way,” said Democrat Gerald Ortiz Y Pino.
House Bill 99 passed the Senate 41 to 1 Saturday night. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say it shows they can work together.
“The New Mexico State Senate reflected that we can work in a bi-partisan fashion for compromise, and so we’re so pleased that went through,” said Democrat John Arthur Smith.
Next the bill heads back to the house. If approved, there it will head to Governor Susana Martinez’s desk, where one signature could undo residents’ headaches for good.
Governor Martinez praised lawmakers Saturday in both parties for working on the compromise.
“We did what New Mexicans were demanding of us,” said “Martinez. “To end the practice of giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and that is in the bill and we succeeded at doing what New Mexicans wanted us to do.”
She says she looks forward to the House sending the bill to her desk. Lawmakers in the House could hear the amended bill as early as Monday.